Imágenes de página

E dalla pena mia
Narro, e in parte piangendo, acerba istoria ;
Ed in voi la memoria
Di voi, di me rinuovo:
Vostri effetti cortesi,
Gli anni miei tra voi spesi,
Qual son, qual fui, che chiedo, ove mi trovo,
Chi mi guidò, chi chiuse,

Lasso! chi m'affidò, chi mi deluse.
Queste cose rammento

A voi, piangendo, o prole
D'eroi, di regi gloriosa e grande :
E se nel mio lamento
Scarse son le parole,
Lagrime larghe il mio dolor vi spande.
Cetre, trombe, ghirlande
Misero piango, e piango
Studj, disporti, ed agi,
Mense, logge, e palagi,
Ove or fui nobil servo, ed or compagno :
Libertade e salute,

E leggi, oimè, d'umanità perdute !
Da nipoti d'Adamo,

Oimè! chi mi divide?
Daughters of Renata, give ear! to you

I talk, in whom birth, beauty, sense refined,
Virtue, gentility, and glory true,
Are in such perfect harmony combined.
To you my anguish I unfold-a scroll
Of bitterness-iny wrongs, my pangs, my fears,
Part of my tale ;-I cannot tell the whole,
But by rebellious tears !
I will recall you to yourselves, renew
Memory of me, your courtesy, your smile
Of gracious kindness, and, vow'd all to you,
My beautiful past years !
What then I was-what am ; what, woe the while,
I am reduced to beg—from whence; what star,
Guided me hither; who with bolt and bar
Confined, and who, when I for freedom grieved,

Proinised me hope, yet still that hope deceived !
These I call back to you. O heirs divine

Of glorious deinigods and kings! and if
My words are weak and few, the tears which grief
Wrings out are eloquent enough :-) pine
For the loved lutes ! lyres! laurels! for the shine
Of suns; for my dear studies, sports, my

So elegant delights, mirth, music, wine;
Piazzas, palaces, where once I sate
A noble servant and beloved friend;
For health destroy'd, for freedom at an end;
The gloom, the solitude, the eternal grate;
And for the laws the Charities provide ;

Oh agony! to me denied ! denied !
From my sweet brotherhood of men, alas,

Who shuts me out?



Thy letters have transported me beyond
This ignorant present time; and I feel now
The future in the instant."

Macbeth. “ I will contrive some way to make it known to futurity that I had your lordship for my patron.”

SWIFT. Allow me, Mr. Editor, through the medium of your entertaining and widely-circulated Miscellany, (these, I believe, are the established phrases when a communicant wishes to purchase admission,) to inform the friends and patrons of literature, who happen to possess the power of rewarding as well as distinguishing merit, that I have just completed an Epic Poem, in twenty-four cantos, constructed as Apelles painted his Venus, by combining all the most distinguishing beauties of my contemporaries, prosaic and poetical, in one elaborate and immortal work. It is in the octo-syllabic irregular metre: my hero is a sort of civilized savage, uniting all the bursts of passion and ferocious valour of a barbarian, with the refined love and unalterable constancy of a preur chevalier; and after many melting, fierce, and tragical adventures with the heroine, who has a bluish bloom upon her glossy black hair, voluptuous lips, and eyes like the Gazelle, they both finally disappear in a mysterious and unexplained manner; making themselves air, like the witches in Macbeth or the spectral figures of a phantasmagoria. Then I have a supernatural nondescript, in the shape of a crazy beldame, who, however, occasionally assumes the semblance of a deformed imp, or dwarf, seemingly a cross breed between the Pythoness and the Gipsy, or Caliban and a witch, who reads and prophesies in the fustian style of Bobadil or Pistol, and, though he, she, or it, have not wit enough to escape from hunger and rags, is yet gifted with real prescience, made the pivot of the whole plot, all the complications of which are forced to wind and evolve in subserviency to the delirious rhapsodies of this inspired hag, or urchin. The propriety of such a character, in a work professing to be a picture of real life, and founded

authentic history, as mine is, will not, I think, be questioned by the most hypercritical reader. Moreover, I have a metaphysical muffin-man, who indulges in high and holy musings, philosophises the face of nature, disserts upon the mysteries of creation, delights in the most exalted and profound abstractions, and occasionally rings his bell and cries “muffins !" with as simple, natural, and penny-beseeching a look, tempered, however, with dignity, as was ever assumed by Belisarius himself. I have also a ; but, softly, let me not divulge too much; for in these times of literary competition, a rival author may first steal a hint, and by that means pick my pocket of my as has already been effected in numerous instances. One may

submit to be pillaged by the dead, and in this way it is astonishing what a number of good things I myself have had stolen from me by Shakspeare and others; but this plagiarism by anticipation on the part of the living - this ante-natal robbery, sometimes extending to our very names and attributes, as in the instance of the unfortunate Peter Bell,

- loudly calls for legislative interference, or we may all of us have our literary bantlings cut off before they are born, or see them ushered


whole story,

into the world as forgeries of themselves--copied originals-counterfeits of their own identity.

No more glimpses, therefore; no more furtive peeps will I afford into the penetralia of my poetic temple. Suffice it to proclaim that I may cry, with Archimedes, “ Eureka! I have found it,”—not the problem he was solving, but the road to immortality; and that the “ jamque opus exegi," and the “ exegi monumentum,” and the “ one half of round eternity” with which the Classics flattered themselves at the termination of their labours, appear flat and insipid, as having received their accomplishment, when compared with my correspondent auguries which have yet to enjoy the gratification of their fulfilment. I have regularly booked myself as an inside passenger to future ages; but I hate travelling alone: there is room for one more; and as it is customary to advertise for partners in a trip to Paris, Switzerland, or Naples, so I take this public method of announcing that I can accommodate any nobleman or gentleman who is willing to become my Dedicatee, with a conveyance to Posterity, and should he be married, I will endeavour to oblige his wife (upon a suitable remuneration) with a seat in the dickey. It may be satisfactory to both parties, before I expound the fare for which I stipulate, that I should say a word or two on the nature of the journey which we are about to undertake, and the advantages which I have to offer to my companion.

First and foremost I beseech the parties to whom I address myself, to recall the assertion of Horace, that many heroes who lived before Agamemnon died uncelebrated, and have become utterly forgotten for want of a poet to record their achievements. To judge what they have lost, let us contemplate what has been gained by their more fortunate successors who have become immortalized in Homer's Iliad. That poem was written about twenty-eight centuries ago, within which period a trifling circumstance has occurred — the Roman Empire was begun, and has utterly passed away! Conceive, for a moment, the innumerable generations of Greeks, Romans, and barbarians that have disappeared in that time, and " left not a wreck behind ;"—the mighty kingdoms that have successively obtained dominion over the earth, and passed away like shadows ;---the stupendous temples of marble and granite which have been built and gradually crumbled into dust, while the perishable paper and parchment, rendered buoyant and indestructible by the genius of Homer, has floated down the stream of time unaltered and uninjured. The art of printing has now placed his work beyond the reach of accident, and we may safely predict that it is only in the first infancy of its fame; that when the foot of Time shall have crushed the pyramids into sand, and the wild Arab shall gallop his camel over their site, the poem of Homer will be as popular as it is now; and that it will not finally perish until “ the great globe itself and all which it inherit shall dissolve."

Well, my worthy readers, noble or gentle, is it nothing to be one of the company in this insubmergible passage-boat, pleasantly sailing down the stream of time till you are proudly launched upon the ocean of eternity ? Such is the nature of the little jaunt I propose to you if you accept a place in my epic ark; but I will candidly avow that there is a peculiarity in its structure which may materially affect its durability. Alas! the fame of a modern poem is like the statue set up by Ne

I see

buchadnezzar-its feet are of clay. To write in a living language is like tracing figures upon the sea-shore: the tide of ages renders it soon indistinct, and at last illegible. Only four centuries have elapsed since the death of Chaucer, and he is already obsolete: it is probable that the future changes of our language will not be so rapid, for Shakspeare did much to fix it, and we shall not willingly run away from a standard which he has rendered so delightful; but still it is mortifying to use such mouldering materials and build upon a quicksand. A living language is a painting perpetually changing colour and soon perishing; a dead one is as a marble statue-always the same. What has occasioned the Greek and Roman tongues to be preserved, but the beauties of their authors ? and why should not the English of the nineteenth century live as a dead language, after it is dead as a living one, for the sole purpose of handing down my immortal epic ? nothing improbable in the supposition.

But even a temporary preservation from oblivion is no trifling boon ; and it is an instructive proof of the innate superiority of low-born pennyless talent over birth, rank, riches, power, and honour, however grand and distinguished in their fleeting generation, to reflect what nameless nothings some of their once proud possessors would have now become, but that they threw the crumbs from their table to some poor devil of an author, and by having their names foisted into a Dedication were preserved from oblivion, as straws and gilded flies are enshrined in amber, and beetles and crawling things occasionally eternised in petrifactions. Such is the difference between the aristocracy of nature and of courts ;-the nobility of genius, and that of stars and ribbons. This becomes ludicrously striking, when the author who holds no patent of nobility but that which God has signed, addresses his patron, some titled amateur scribbler, and requests the sanction of his celebrity that he may descend to posterity with his lordship or his grace, who in the course of a few years is only un-earthed from his illustrious obscurity by the digging of commentators.

Take for instance the following passage from Dryden's Dedication of The Rival Ladies to the Right Honourable the Earl of Orrery :-“I have little reason to desire you for my judge, for who could so severely judge of faults as he who bas given testimony he commits none? Your excellent poems have afforded that knowledge of it to the world, that your enemies are ready to upbraid you with it, as a crime for a man of business to write so well.

There is no chance which you have not foreseen; all your heroes are more than your subjects they are your creatures ; and though they seem to move freely in all the sallies of their passions, yet you make destinies for them which they cannot shun. They are moved (if I may dare to say so) like the rational creatures of the almighty poet, who walk at liberty in their own opinion because their fetters are invisible.

* * * I have dwelt, my lord, thus long upon your writings, not because you deserve not greater and more noble commendations, but because I am not equally able to express them in other subjects,” &c. &c. Who knows any thing nowa-days of his lordship’s plays and poems, except from this passage ?-Let us make another citation from the same author's dedication of “ An Evening's Love,” to “His Grace William Duke of Newcastle, one of his Majesty's most Honourable Privy Council, and of the most


noble Order of the Garter, &c. &c."_“Methinks I behold in yout another Caius Marius, who in the extremity of his exercised himself almost every morning in the Campus Martius, amongst the youthful nobility of Rome. And afterwards in your retirements when you do honour to poetry by employing part of your leisure in it, I regard you as another Silius Italicus, who having passed over his consulship with applause, dismissed himself from business and the gown, and employed his age amongst the shades, in the reading and imitation of Virgil.” His grace's plays, like himself, have passed away, leaving nothing but their titles behind them; and his literary celebrity is destined to be solely upheld by his splendid folio on horsemanship, still occasionally encountered in collections of scarce rubbish, where, after the noble author has been engraved in every possible attitude and dress, he is at length represented mounted on Pegasus, as a poet should be, and in the act of ascending from a circle of houyhnhnms, kneeling around him in the act of adoration.

But for Pope's exquisite mock-heroic, what should we have known of Lord Petre, the lock-severing peer, or of Mrs. Arabella Fermor, from whom the fatal ringlet was excised, or of Sir George Brown, the Sir Plume of the Poem, who in Bowles's splenetic edition smirks at us in an engraving in all the self-satisfaction of a black wig, embroidered sleeve, and silken sash? After strutting their little hour upon the stage of life, they would long since have sunk into their original dust, and the passing of a single century would have overwhelmed them in impenetrable oblivion.

Patrician and wealthy readers! I implore you to bear in mind that Cheops and Cephrenes, who entrusted their preservation to the Pyramids, have been filched from their sarcophagi, and nobody knows by whom. I invite you to contemplate that affecting rebuke of ancestral pride, the burial-place of Thebes, whence the mummies of the whole aristocracy are dug up as fuel, cut into hundred and half hundred weights, and sold to the Arabs for the purpose of heating their ovens. Now if they had committed the preservation of their name and exploits to some competent poet, they might have abandoned their earthly tegument to its kindred element;-they could not altogether have perished. Had they been embalmed in verse, they need not have been solicitous about pickling their bodies. I counsel you seriously to perpend what Epicurus wrote to Idomeneus: “All the glory and grandeur of Persia, even should you succeed in all your undertakings, will never equal the honour conferred on you by my letters ;"—and that Seneca writing to Lucullus says :-"I have credit with posterity, and can confer immortality upon you;" both of which assertions have been abundantly verified. But it is useless to multiply examples, or accumulate exhortations. Mine, I repeat, is the sole perpetuity. I have a seat to sell, not in a certain House, but in an imperishable vehicle just about to start for posterity. I have a portion of immortality to dispose of, and that it may be fairly knocked down to the highest bidder, I request that all offers and tenders may be sent to the publishers, postage paid, it being always understood that the fortunate purchaser of my dedication must undertake to get my work noticed in the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews, or I will not answer for the sale of my first edition.


« AnteriorContinuar »