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their opponents, are the least competent to state them with clearness, or to preach them with efficacy? The pulpit is not, indeed, to be made an arena for controversy; but we must deem it a very short-sighted policy which should observe a silence upon topics, the most likely, from their abstruse nature, to be misrepresented and abused. Rather, because they have been perverted, because they have been distorted into system, and obscured by technical phraseology, because they have been separated from their just consequences of practical virtue, let the able divine, and the pious minister, bring them for. ward, exhibit them in their just relations, vindicate them from their supposed evil tendency, and shew the harmony and mutual dependence of all the parts of the Christian scheme. That all truth is important, and essentially connected with practical results, is an axiom which cannot with safety be abandoned, nor without casting a stigma upon either the completeness or the necessity of the Revelation to which we profess to pay the homage of our understandings.
We had marked several passages in Dr. Whitaker's sermon, for extract and encomium, especially some admirable reinarks on the spirit to be maintained toward those from whom we differ; but we must here terminate the article, for the length of which we again bespeak the indulgence of our readers.
Art. III. Roderick, the Last of the Goths; a Tragic Poem. By
Robert Southey, Esq. Poet Laureate, and Member of the Royal Spanish Academy. 4to. pp. 340. and cxxxvii. 21. 2s. Longman
and Co. London. 1814. THERE are scarcely six heroic poems in the world that have
acquired general, permanent, and increasing renown; yet nothing short of this in idea, has been the object of the authors of hundreds of similar works, which have gained a transient, or established a local reputation.
" What shall I do to be for ever known.” -is the aspiration of every true poet, though, in the pursuit of fame, each will choose, out of all the means whereby it may be achieved, those only which are most congenial to his talents or his taste. A libertine will not select a sacred theme, nor a modest man a licentious one ; but be it a virtuous or a profligate
: one, we may assert, not as a questionable hypothesis, but as a matter of fact, that the love of glory is the first impulse of every poet's mind, and the desire of the greatest degree of glory, is, perhaps, essential to the attainment of even a moderate portion. Without the highest honours in view, no poet will put forth his
whole strength; he will be content with the exertions that enable him to excel his competitors, but he will want a motive for those which would enable him to excel himself.
Mr. Southey is still in the prime of manhood, and, exclusive of other compositions of singular merit, both in verse and in prose, more than we can at present enumerate, he has already published five Epics; for, though he disclaims the degraded name,' Epics we must call them, till he furnish a more appropriate generic term for his long narrative poems. It might safely be said by any person who had not read one of these, that they will not all go down to posterity as the companions of the "Iliad," the "Odyssey," the "Eneid," the "Jerusalem Delivered," and the "Paradise Lost;" since the possibility that one writer should mature five productions equal to these, cannot for a moment be imagined, after the experience of three thousand years from Homer to Milton, But we have read all Mr. Southey's Epics; and it is quite fair that we be asked whether we think one of them will stand in this line among the few imperishable monuments of genius, and add another volume to the library of mankind,-a volume that shall be read in all ages, and in all countries, where a language besides the mother language is known? We will not say No, and we cannot say Yes; but we do not hesitate to admit, that we know no reason that the intellect, the imagination, and the energy of that mind, which, within eighteen years, has given birth to " Joan of Arc," to "Thalaba," to "Madoc," to "Kehama," and to "Roderick," might not, within the same period, have elaborated a single poem, rivalling in length, only one, but transcending in merit, all of these admirable pieces. At the same time we are willing to acknowledge, though we are unwilling to admit the application to Mr. Southey, that it may be very possible for an author of exalted acquirements and versatile talents, to compose the five, who could by no intensity of application perfect one such as we have supposed, nor indeed one of any kind much excelling the rest. There are birds of indefatigable wing, that soar often and long, to a noble elevation, and yet
The eagle drops them in a lower sky,'
though his flights are few and far between.' If Mr. Southey has found his height, and dares not venture nearer to the sun, let him make his excursions as frequently as he pleases in this middle region, and we shall always be glad to hail his rising, admire his course, and welcome his descent; but if by any toil, or time, or care, he can reach the highest heaven of invention,' we would earnestly entreat him, in the name of all that be loves in song, or seeks in fame, to risk the enterprise. Wo know he needs not write for bread; his living renown can little VOL. III, N. S. 2 D
compensate him for his arduous and incessant pains; then, since the immortality for name cannot be acquired at will by any poet, the least that can be required of him, who is rationally in quest of it, is, to employ his utmost endeavours to deserve it, whether he obtain it or not. Plainly, if Mr. Southey can do no better than he has done, we care not how often he appears in a new quarto form; but if he can, we care not how seldom we see him; nay, we shall be satisfied if it be but once more-in his old age and ours-provided he then present to us a poem surpassing, in comparative worth, not only the five labours of the last eighteen years, but five more, during the advancing eighteen years, which, if he continue his present career, may be reasonably expected from so enterprising a knight-errant of the Muses.
After all, the immediate popularity of works of genius depends much on the fashion, manners, taste, and prejudices of the times,-on things which are artificial, incidental, and perpetually changing; but enduring reputation can be secured only by the power of awakening sensibilities common to all men, though dormant in the multitude; and appealing to sympathies universal throughout society, in every stage, from the radest barbarism to the most fastidious refinement. We might, perhaps, add, that it is almost indispensable to the success of an heroic poem, that it be a national one, celebrating an event well known, though far distant in time, and hallowed to the imagination of the poet's own countrymen by patriotic lessons, examples, and triumphs of constancy and valour. Mr. Southey's poems of this species, are written in defiance of the fashion, manners, taste, and prejudices of the present times, and they have contained little that could conciliate them; consequently, it is no wonder that they have been less popular than the captivating romances of the Northern minstrel. On the other hand, though they do frequently awaken sensibilities common to all men, and appeal to sympathies universal through society; though they abound with adventures, marvellous and striking; with characters boldly original; with sentiments pure, and tender, and lofty: with descriptions rich, various, and natural; though in these they exhibit all the graces and novelties of a style peculiarly plastic, eloquent, and picturesque: yet, by an infelicity in the choice of subjects, they are addressed to readers, who have either a national antipathy against the burthen of them, as to the dishonour of their country in "Joan of Arc ;" an indifference to super-human exploits and sufferings, as in "Thalaba;" a horror of barbarity, as to the Mexican scenes of "Madoc;" a resolute incredulity of monstrous and unclassical mythology. as in "Kchama;" or an ignorance of the history, and unconcern for the fate of the heroes, as in many instances in "Ro"derick, the last of the Goths." The latter, indeed, is less
objectionable in all these respects, than any of its predecessors, excepting the first part of "Madoc,"Madac in Wales;— where, if we are not greatly mistaken, both the poet and his readers are more happy, and more at home together, than in all their other travels beside through real or imaginary worlds. Other requisites being equal, that poetry will assuredly be the most highly and permanently pleasing, which is the most easily understood; in which the whole meaning of the sentiments, the whole beauty of the language, the whole force of the allusions, in a word, the whole impression is made at first, at once, and for ever, on the reader's mind. This is not the case with any one of Mr. Southey's Epics. They are always accompanied by a long train of notes; and the worst evil attending them is, that they are really useful! It is hard enough to have to pay for half a volume of irrelevant, worthless notes, but it is much hardera much greater discount from the value of the text, when the notes are worth the money, and constitute so essential a part of the book, that without them the poem would be a parable of paradoxes, obscure in itself, and rendered incomprehensible by its illustrations-the imagery and allusions-which ought to be its glory. Many parts of Thalaba" and "Keliama" especially, without the notes, would be as insolvable as the Sphinx's riddle. These are relative defects in the subjects, which no art or power of the poet can supply, because the real defect is neither in the Author, nor in the work, but in the mind of the readers, who want the information previously necessary to understand and enjoy what is submitted to them. That information comes too late in the notes, after the first feeling is gone by, for then it can do little more than render a puzzling passage intelligible,-seldom impressive. Our Author is undoubtedly aware of all these disadvantages; and he encounters them at his peril, with a gallantry more to be admired, than recommended to imitation.
Mr. Southey's talents have been so long known, and so repeatedly canvassed, that we do not think it necessary to enter into any inquiry concerning their peculiar qualiti s, the purposes for which they ar most happily adapted, nor their relative excellence when contrasted with those of is distinguished contemporaries. Nor will we, for our limits forbid it, attempt to compare Mr. Southey with himself; to try whether the splendid promise of his youth, in "Joan of Arc," has been progressively fulfilled in his subsequent performances. His name will unquestionably go down to posterity with the most illustrious of the present age, and, probably, with the most illustrious of past ages, for we would fain hope, that the poem, by which he will 'be for ever known,' is not yet written, perhaps not yet meditated by him. If it be such a one as we have imagined, it must be either a national one, or one in which the whole race of man
shall be equally and everlastingly interested. That he shall have the happiness to fix on a subject of the latter description, is more than we dare anticipate; but by choosing one of the former stamp, he may still rise far above his present rank among poets, for we are perfectly convinced, that whatever labour, or learning, or genius, he may lavish on strange or foreign themes, unless he select one that comes home to the bosoms of his countrymen, and expend on it his whole collected wealth of thought, splendour of imagination, and power of pathos, he will never maintain his station, either at home or abroad, with Homer, Virgil, Tasso, and Milton. British History presents a hero and a scene we shall not name them,-unequalled, for the purposes of verse, in the annals of man. This theme has been the hope of many a youthful bard, and the despair of many an older one. Like the Enchanted Forest' in the "Jerusalem "Delivered," hitherto all who have presumed to approach it, have been frightened away, or beaten back; and it is still reserved for some Rinaldo of song, perhaps now wasting his strength in outlandish adventures, to pierce its recesses, enfranchise its spirits, and rest under its laurels.
On closing the volume before us, we were struck with the idea-How differently should we have felt in reading this 'Magic 'Poem,' if the story had been British! how would every native character have been endeared, every act of heroism exalted, every patriotic sentiment consecrated, in our esteem, by that circumstance! The day is past, when "Roderick, the last of the "Goths," would have been hailed throughout this island, with kindred enthusiasm, for the sake of the country which gave him birth, and in which a spirit of courage to fight, and of fortitude to bear equal to any thing here exhibited, has been realized in our own age; but for what-let the dungeons of the Inquisition tell us! The mind of a Briton revolts, with feelings of shame, indignation, and pity, unutterably mingled, at the recollection of the proudest battle-fields of his own countrymen in that land, whose very name was wont to make his cheek flush more warmly, and his pulse beat more quickly, but which now sends the blood cold to the heart, and forces a sigh from the bosom on which the burthen of Spain lies heavy and deadening as an incubus. This poem, therefore, must rest solely on its own merits, and it needs no adventitious recommendation to place it high among the works, that reflect peculiar lustre on the present era of English poetry. Without pretending further to forebode its fate, we shall briefly characterize it as the most regular, impassioned, and easily intelligible, of all the Author's performances in this strain.
The main events of the fable may be sketched in a few sentences. Mr. Walter Scott's "Vision of Don Roderick," has