Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

in your country, and sincere catholics, speak | the religion of so many forefathers. Catholicism oftener of God than of his son or parent?

President. The reason I presume is, that our ancestors the Gauls worshipped one superior Being, though, from indifference to the truth in such matters, Cæsar asserts the contrary; and that hence, we still talk as monotheists; while other nations, who were formerly polytheists, retain the language of such; and would perhaps, although the religion of the country had retained no shadow or resemblance of it.*

Leopold. No prince ought to be indifferent to religion; but everyone ought to the forms and sects of it, so long as they abstain from pretensions of interference with the state. This is an offence which, at the least, should be punished by their suppression. I am supposed to exercise an arbitrary power in this country: yet my interference in the affairs of religion is less extensive than that of your Louis XIV. In his Declaration of 1682, he says, "Pour l'intérêt de l'Eglise de notre royaume, de laquelle nous sommes premier et universel protecteur." According to the former of these words (premier) he takes precedency of the pope in the church; and according to the latter (universel) he quite excludes him.

President. Many of our bishops think other wise, although the most acute and clear of reaand the most eloquent of expositors, Bossuet, was in this campaign the champion of the king.

soners,

Leopold. Of your bishops there are many who think otherwise; first because many of them think little, and possess no learning; and secondly and mainly, because they have a better chance of being cardinals by adherence to the papacy, certain that they can not lose their bishoprics by it. Surely I have as much power in my monasteries, as the popes have in my music-shops.

President. That is clear.

Leopold. Nevertheless they have forbidden, under pain of excommunication, to copy the miserere of Allegrini, which is only to be sung in the pope's chapel, and by eunuchs. This is an order more conformable to the taste of Nero than to the office of Christ's vicar.

President. A countryman of mine, Choron, infringed the edict, and may have his throat cut for it; the offender being excommunicated.

Leopold. Although I would admit but one system of laws and one head of them, I would willingly see several religions in my states, knowing that in England and Holland they are checks one upon another. The Quaker inverts his eye and rebukes his graceless son, by observing how industrious and tractable is the son of some fierce Presbyterian: the Catholic points to the daughter of a Socinian, and cries shame upon his own, educated as she was in the purity of the faith, in

* If Du Paty were now living, what would he say about the report on the project of a law in France against sacri

lege, in which the reporters use the word deicide (godkilling) and are guided by the jesuits, who would burn you

alive for materialism!

loses somewhat of its poisonous strong savour by taking root in a well-pulverized, well-harrowed soil. As competition levels the price of provi sions, so maintains it the just value of sects. Whatever is vicious in one, is kept under by the concourse of others, and each is emulous to prove the superiority of its doctrines by honesty and regularity of life. If ever the English could be brought to one opinion in politics or religion, they would lose the energy of their character and the remains of their freedom. In England the Catholics are unexceptionably good members of society, although the gentlemen of that persua sion, I hear, are generally more ignorant than others, partly by the jealous spirit of their church, and partly by an ungenerous exclusion from the universities. They keep a chaplain in their houses, but always a man of worth, and not combining as in Italy a plurality of incongruous offices. Here a confessor, in many instances, is tutor to the children, house-steward to the father, and cavaliere serviente to the mother. He thinks it would be a mockery of God to call her to confess, without a decent provision of slight transgressions; and he cures her indigestions by a dram, her qualms of conscience by a sacrament.

President. Both morality and learning require the sound of feet running fast behind, to keep them from loitering and flagging. When Calvinism had made and was making a rapid progress in France, the Catholic bishops were learned men; indeed so learned, that Joseph Scaliger, himself a Calvinist, acknowledged in the latter part of his life their immense superiority over the rising sect. At present there is only one bishop in France capable of reading a chapter in the Greek Testament, which every schoolboy in England, for whatever profession he is intended, must do at eleven years of age. I would then recommend a free commerce both of matter and of mind. I would let men enter their own churches with the same freedom as their own houses; and I would do it without a homily on graciousness or favour. For tyranny itself is to me a word less odious than toleration.

Leopold. I am placed among certain small difficulties. Tuscany is my farm: the main object of I proprietors is their income. I would see my cattle fat and my labourers well clothed; but I would not permit the cattle to break down my fences, nor the labourer to dilapidate my buildings. I will preserve the Catholic religion, in its dogmas, forms, discipline, and ceremonies: it is the pommel of a sovran's sword, and the richest jewel in his regalia: no bull however shall squeeze out blood under me, no faggot sweat out heresy, no false key unlock my treasury. The propensity will always exist. The system has been called imperium in imperio, very unwisely: it was imperium super imperio, until it taught kings to profit by its alphabet, its ciphers, and its flagellations. You complain that I have softened my mud: this is the season for treading and kneading it: and

there are no better means of doing so, none cheaper, none more effectual, than by keeping a gang of priests on the platform. America will produce disturbances in Europe by her emancipation from England. The example will operate in part, not principally. Wherever there is a national debt, disproportionately less rapid in its extinction than in its formation, there is a revolutionary tendency this will spread where there is none; as maladies first engendered in the air are soon communicated by contact to the sound and healthy. Various causes will be attributed to the effect; even the books of philosophers. All the philosophers in the world would produce a weaker effect in this business than one blind balladsinger. Principles are of slower growth than passions: and the hand of Philosophy, holden out to all, there are few who press cordially. And who are those? the disappointed, the contemplative, the retired, the timid. Did Cromwell read Plato did the grocers of Boston read Locke? The true motives, in political affairs, are often improbable. Men who never heard of philosophy but to sneer at it after dinner, will attribute to it those evils which their own venality and corruption have engendered; and not from a spirit of falsehood, but from incompetency of judgment and reflection. What is the stablest in itself is not always so in all places: marble is harder and more durable than timber: but the palaces of Venice and Amsterdam would have split and sunk without wooden piles for their foundation. Single government wants those manifold props which are supplied well-seasoned by Catholicism. A king indeed may lose his throne by indiscretion or inadvertency, but the throne itself will never lose its legs in any Catholic state. Never will a republican or a mixed constitution exist seven years, where the hierarchy of Rome hath recently exerted its potency. Venice and Genoa afford no proofs to the contrary: they arose and grew up while the popes were bishops, and ere mankind had witnessed the wonderful spectacle of an inverted apotheosis. God forbid that any corrupt nation should dream of becoming what America is. If it possesses one single man of reflection, he will demonstrate the impracticability of citizenship, where the stronger body of the state, as the clergy must morally be, receives its impulse and agency from without; and where it claims to itself a jurisdiction over all, excluding all from any authority over its concerns. This demonstration leads to a sentence which policy is necessitated to pronounce, and humanity is unable to mitigate.

President. Theories and speculations always subvert religious, never political, establishments. Uneasiness makes men shift their postures. National debts produce the same effects as private ones; immorality and a desire of change; the former universally, the latter almost. A man may well think he pays profusely, who pays a tenth as an insurance for his property against the perils of the sea. Does he reason less justly who deems the same sum sufficient for the security of

the remainder, in his own lands, in his own house? No conquered people was ever obliged to surrender such a portion of its wealth, present and reversionary, as in our times hath been expended voluntarily, in the purchase of handcuffs and fetters for home-consumption. Free nations, for the sake of doing mischief to others, and to punish the offence of pretending to be like them, have consented that a certain preparation of grain shall be interdicted in their families, that certain herbs shall never be cultivated in their fields and gardens, that they shall never roast certain beans, nor extract certain liquors, and that certain rooms in their houses shall admit no light. Domitian never did against his enemies what these free nations have done against themselves.

The sea-tortoise can live without its brains; an old discovery! Men can govern without theirs ; an older still!

Leopold. I indeed see no reason why different sects in religion should not converse in the streets, as they are walking to their churches and chapels, with as much good-will and good-humour, as schoolboys of different ages and classes, going up at the same hour and for the same purpose to their appointed forms and respective teachers. Both parties are going for learning and improvement: the younger is the wiser: how long shall it continue so?

President. I can calculate the period to a day. It will continue while the clergy is a distinct body; while a priest is a prince; while he who says at one moment," I am a servant, the servant of servants,” says at another, "I am a master, the master of masters!"

So long as society will suffer these impositions, and toil under these tax-gatherers, and starve and contend and bleed for them, animosity and hatred will deface and desecrate the house of prayer and peace. The interest of the class, and above all of the chiefs, requires it: for from the moment when men begin to understand and support one another, they will listen to them no longer, nor endure them.

Leopold. I am influenced little by opinions: they vary the most where they are strongest and loudest : here they breathe softly, and not against me; for I excite the hopes of many by extinguishing those of a few. What I have begun I will continue: but I see clearly where I ought to stop, and know to a certainty, which few reformers do, where I can. Exempt from intemperance of persecution as from taint of bigotry, I am disposed to see Christianity neither in diamonds nor in tatters: I would sell her red and white, to procure her a clean shift and inoffensive stockings.

I must persuade both clergy and laity that God understands Italian. Ricci, bishop of Pistoja, is convinced of this truth; but many of his diocesans, not disputing his authority, argue that, although God indeed may understand it, yet the saints, to whom they offer up incense and in whom they have greater confidence, may not; and that being, for the most-part, old men, it

might incommode them in the regions of bliss to alter pristine habits.

Warmly and heartily do I thank you, M. Du Paty, for your observations: you have treated me really as your equal.

President. I should rather thank your Imperial Highness for your patience and confidence. If I have presented one rarity to the Palazzo Pitti, I have been richly remunerated with another.

There are only two things which authorise a man out of office to speak his sentiments freely in the courts of princes; very small stature and very small probity. You have abolished this most ancient institution, in favour of a middle-sized man, who can reproach himself with no perversion or neglect of justice, in a magistrature of twenty years.

SOUTHEY AND PORSON.

SECOND CONVERSATION.

Porson. Many thanks, Mr. Southey, for this visit in my confinement. I do believe you see me on my last legs; and perhaps you expected it.

Southey. Indeed, Mr. Professor, I expected to find you unwell, according to report; but as your legs have occasionally failed you, both in Cambridge and in London, the same event may happen again many times before the last. The cheerfulness of your countenance encourages me to make this remark.

Porson. There is that soft and quiet and genial humour about you, which raises my spirits and tranquillises my infirmity. Why (I wonder) have we not always been friends?

Southey. Alas, my good Mr. Professor! how often have the worthiest men asked the same question, not indeed of each other, but of their own hearts, when age and sickness have worn down their asperities, when rivalships have grown languid, animosities tame, inert, and inexcitable, and when they have become aware of approaching more nearly the supreme perennial fountain of benevolence and truth?

Porson. Am I listening to the language and to the sentiments of a poet? I ask the question with this distinction; for I have often found a wide difference between the sentiments and the language. Generally nothing can be purer or more humane that what is exhibited in modern poetry; but I may mention to you, who are known to be exempt from the vice, that the nearest neighbours in the most romantic scenery, where everything seems peace, repose, and harmony, are captious and carping one at another. When I hear the song of the nightingale, I neglect the naturalist; and in vain does he remind me that its aliment is composed of grubs and worms. Let poets be crop-full of jealousy; let them only sing well; that is enough for me.

Southey. I think you are wrong in your supposition, that the poet and the man are usually dissimilar.

Porson. There is a race of poets; not however the race of Homer and Dante, Milton and Shakspeare; but a race of poets there is, which nature has condemned to a Siamese twinship. Wherever the poet is, there also must the man obtrude obliquely his ill-favoured visage. From a drunken connexion with Vanity this surplus offspring may always be expected. In no two poets that ever

lived do we find the fact so remarkably exemplified as in Byron and Wordsworth. But higher power produces an intimate consciousness of itself; and this consciousness is the parent of tranquillity and repose. Small poets (observe, I do not call Wordsworth and Byron small poets) are as unquiet as grubs, which in their boneless and bloodless flaccidity, struggle and wriggle and die, the moment they tumble out of the nut-shell and its comfortable drouth. Shakspeare was assailed on every side by rude and beggarly rivals, but he never kicked them out of his way.

Southey. Milton was less tolerant; he shrivelled up the lips of his revilers by the austerity of his scorn. In our last conversation, I remember, I had to defend against you the weaker of the two poets you just now cited, before we came to Milton and Shakspeare. I am always ready to undertake the task. Byron wants no support or setting off, so many workmen have been employed in the construction of his throne, and so many fair hands in the adaptation of his cushion and canopy. But Wordsworth, in his poetry at least, always aimed at..

Porson. My dear Mr. Southey! there are two quarters in which you can not expect the will to be taken for the deed: I mean the women and the critics. Your friend inserts parenthesis in parenthesis, and adds clause to clause, codicil to codicil, with all the circumspection, circuition, wariness, and strictness, of an indenture. His client has it hard and fast. But what is an axiom in law is none in poetry. You can not say in your profession, plus non vitiat; plus is the worst vitiator and violator of the Muses and the Graces.

Be sparing of your animadversions on Byron. He will always have more partisans and admirers than any other in your confraternity. He will always be an especial favourite with the ladies, and with all who, like them, have no opportunity of comparing him with the models of antiquity. He possesses the soul of poetry, which is energy; but he wants that ideal beauty, which is the sublimer emanation, I will not say of the real, for this is the more real of the two, but of that which is ordinarily subject to the senses. With much that is admirable, he has nearly all that is vicious; a large grasp of small things, without selection and without cohesion. This likewise is the case with the other, without the long hand and the strong fist.

Southey. I have heard that you prefer Crabbe to either.

Porson. No bad perfume after all. "Nought of life left, save a quivering When his limbs were slightly shivering." Pray, what does the second line add to the first, beside empty words? "Around a slaughter'd army lay."

"No more to combat or to bleed."

Porson. Crabbe wrote with a twopenny nail, and scratched rough truths and rogues' facts on mud walls. There is, however, much in his poetry, and more in his moral character, to admire. Comparing the smartnesses of Crabbe with Young's, What follows? I cannot help thinking that the reverend doctor must have wandered in his Night Thoughts rather too near the future vicar's future mother, so striking is the resemblance. But the vicar, if he was fonder of low company, has greatly more nature and sympathy, greatly more vigour and compression. Young moralised at a distance on some external appearances of the human heart;

Crabbe entered it on all fours, and told the people

what an ugly thing it is inside.

Southey. This simple-minded man is totally free from malice and animosity.

Porson. Rightly in the use of these two powers have you discriminated. Byron is profuse of animosity; but I do believe him to be quite without malice. You have lived among men about the Lakes, who want the vigour necessary for the expansion of animosity; but whose dunghills are warm enough to hatch long egg-strings of malice, after a season. Southey. It may be so; but why advert to them? In speaking of vigour, surely you can not mean vigour of intellect? An animal that has been held with lowered nostrils in the Grotto del Cane, recovers his senses when he is thrown into the Agnano; but there is no such resuscitation for the writer whose head has been bent over that poetry, which, while it intoxicates the brain, deadens or perverts the energies of the heart. In vain do pure waters reflect the heavens to him: his respiration is on the earth and earthly things: and it is not the whispers of wisdom, or the touches of affection, it is only the shout of the multitude, that can excite him. It soon falls, and he with it.

Porson. Do not talk in this manner with the ladies, young or old; a little profligacy is very endearing to them.

Southey. Not to those with whom I am likely

to talk.

Porson. Before we continue our discussion on

the merits of Mr. Wordsworth, and there are many great ones, I must show my inclination to impartiality, by adducing a few instances of faultiness in Byron. For you must bear in mind that I am counsel for the crown against your friend, and that it is not my business in this place to call witnesses to his good character.

Southey. You leave me no doubt of that. But do not speak in generalities when you speak of him. Lay your finger on those places in particular which most displease you.

Porson. It would benumb it; nevertheless, I will do as you bid me; and, if ever I am unjust in a single tittle, reprehend me instantly. But at present, to Byron as I proposed. Give me the volume. Ay, that is it.

Southey. Methinks it smells of his own favourite beverage, gin-and-water.

Verily! Well; more the pity than the wonder.
According to historians (if you doubt my fidelity
I will quote them), slaughtered armies have often
been in this condition.

"We sat down and wept by the waters
Of Babel, and thought of the day,
When our foe, in the hue of his slaughters,
Made Salem's high places his prey."

This is

A prey "in the hue of his slaughters."
very pathetic; but not more so than the thought
it suggested to me, which is plainer:

"We sat down and wept by the waters

Of Camus, and thought of the day,
When damsels would show their red garters
In their hurry to scamper away."

Let us see what we can find where this other slip
of paper divides the pages.

"Let he who made thee."

Some of us at Cambridge continue to say, "Let him go." Is this grammatical form grown obsoSome of us are also lete? Pray, let I know.

much in the habit of pronouncing real as if it were a dissyllable, and ideal as if it were a trisyllable. All the Scotch deduct a syllable from each of these words, and Byron's mother was Scotch.

What have we here?

"And spoil'd her goodly lands to gild his waste." profess my abhorrence at gilding even a few square leagues of waste.

I

"Thy fanes, thy temples," Where is the difference?

Rustic plough."

There are more of these than of city ploughs or court ploughs.

"Have flung a desolate cloud o'er Venice' lovely walls."

What think you of a desolate cloud?

"O'er Venice' lovely walls?"

Where poets have omitted, as in this instance, the possessive 8, denoting the genitive case, as we are accustomed to call it, they are very censurable. Few blemishes in style are greater. But here, where no letter s precedes it, the fault is the worst. In the next line we find

"Athens' armies."

Further on, he makes Petrarca say that his passion for Laura was a guilty one. If it was, Petrarca did not think it so, and still less would he have said it.

Southey. This arises from his ignorance, that reo in Italian poetry, means not only guilty, but cruel and sorrowful.

Porson. He fancies that Shakspeare's Forest of Arden is the Belgian Forest of the same name, differently spelt, Ardennes; whereas it began near Stratford-upon-Avon, and extended to Red-ditch

and the Ridgeway, the boundary of Warwickshire | awarding due praise to such critics, of whom the and Worcestershire, having for its centre the little number in our own country is extremely small town Henley, called to this day Henley in Arden. Southey. You will never find in Wordsworth such faults as these.

Porson. Perhaps not; but let us see. I am apprehensive that we may find graver, and without the excuse of flightiness or incitation. We will follow him, if you please, where you attempted (as coopers do in their business more successfully) to draw together the staves of his quarter-cask, by putting a little fire of your own chips in it. Yet they start and stare widely; and even your practised hand will scarcely bring it into such condition as to render it a sound or saleable commodity. You are annoyed, I perceive, at this remark. I honour your sensibility. There are, indeed, base souls which genius may illuminate, but cannot elevate.

"Struck with an ear-ache by all stronger lays,

They writhe with anguish at another's praise." Meantime, what exquisite pleasure must you have felt, in being the only critic of our age and country, labouring for the advancement of those who might be thought your rivals! No other ventured to utter a syllable in behalf of your friend's poetry. While he "wheeled his drony flight," it lay among the thread-papers and patch-work of the sedater housewifes, and was applied by them to the younger part of the family, as an antidote against all levity of behaviour. The last time we met, you not only defended your fellow-soldier while he was lying on the ground, trodden and wounded and crying out aloud, but you lifted him up on your shoulders in the middle of the fight. Presently we must try our strength again, if you persist in opposing him to the dramatists of Athens.

Southey. You mistake me widely in imagining me to have ranked him with the Greek tragedians, or any great tragedians whatsoever. I only said that, in one single poem, Sophocles or Euripides would probably have succeeded no better.

Porson. This was going far enough. But I will not oppose my unbelief to your belief, which is at all times the pleasanter. Poets, I find, are beginning to hold critics cheap, and are drilling a company out of their own body. At present, in marching they lift up their legs too high, and in firing they shut their eyes.

Southey. There is little use in arguing with the conceited and inexperienced, who, immersed in the slough of ignorance, cry out, "There you are wrong; there we differ," &c. Wry necks are always stiff, and hot heads are still worse when they grow cool.

Porson. Let me ask you, who, being both a poet and a critic, are likely to be impartial, whether we, who restore the noble forms which time and barbarism have disfigured, are not more estimable than those artisans who mould in coarse clay, and cover with plashy chalk, their shepherds and shepherdesses for Bagnigge-Wells?

Southey. I do not deny nor dispute it; but,

(bishoprics having absorbed and suffocated half the crew), I must, in defence of those particularly whom they have criticised too severely, profess my opinion that our poetry, of late years, hath gained to the full as much as it hath lost.

Porson. The sea also, of late years, and all other years too, has followed the same law. We have gained by it empty cockle-shells, dead jellyfish, sand, shingle, and voluminous weeds. On the other hand, we have lost our exuberant meadow-ground, slowly abraded, stealthily bitten off, morsel after morsel; we have lost our fat saltmarshes; we have lost our solid turf, besprinkled with close flowers; we have lost our broad umbrageous fences, and their trees and shrubs and foliage of plants innumerably various; we have lost, in short, everything that delighted us with its inexhaustible richness, and aroused our admiration at its irregular and unrepressed luxuriance.

Southey. I would detract and derogate from no man; but pardon me if I am more inclined toward him who improves our own literature, than toward him who elucidates any other.

Porson. Our own is best improved by the elucidation of others. Among all the bran in the little bins of Mr. Wordsworth's beer-cellar, there is not a legal quart of that stout old English beverage with which the good Bishop of Dromore regaled us. The buff jerkins we saw in Chevy Chase, please me better than the linsywoolsy which enwraps the puffy limbs of our worthy host at Grasmere.

Southey. Really this, if not random malice, is ill-directed levity. Already you have acquired that fame and station to which nobody could oppose your progress: why not let him have his?

Porson. So he shall; this is the mark I aim at. It is a difficult thing to set a weak man right, and it is seldom worth the trouble; but it is infinitely more difficult, when a man is intoxicated by applauses, to persuade him that he is going astray. The more tender and coaxing we are, the oftener is the elbow jerked into our sides. There are three classes of sufferers under criticism: the querulous, the acquiescent, and the contemptuous. In the two latter, there is usually something of magnanimity; but in the querulous we always find the imbecile, the vain, and the mean-spirited. I do not hear that you ever have condescended to notice any attack on your poetical works, either in note or preface. Meanwhile, your neighbour would allure us into his cottage by setting his sheep-dog at us; which guardian of the premises runs after and snaps at every pebble thrown to irritate him.

Southey. Pray, leave these tropes and metaphors, and acknowledge that Wordsworth has been scornfully treated.

Porson. Those always will be who show one weakness at having been attacked on another. I admire your suavity of temper, and your consciousness of worth; your disdain of obloquy, and your resignation to the destinies of authorship.

« AnteriorContinuar »