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INTRODUCTION BY THE TRANSLATOR.
all the garniture of earth thus grown variously in richness, in moderation, and in a sweet and hum- LAMARTINE'S THOUGHTS ON POETRY. ble disorder, potteth it into man's mind, for he is doomed to dress himself so as to follow her law, and thus it is, that in any given number of persons, you shall see some few endowed with this natural
I was so much pleased with this essay by Lagift and grace of slovenry.- Blackwood.
martine that before I had read it half through in the original, I commenced the grateful task of ren
dering it into English. Its tiile, being simply " Des Verses written by Sir Walter Raleigh, on the destinées de la poesie par M. A. de Lamarline, de night before his execution :
l'académie Française," I presumed that it was some Even such is time that takes on trust,
paper read before the French Academy, or some Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
prize dissertation, offered to that learned instituAnd pays us but with age, and dust,
lion. But in proceeding with my lecture and transWho in the dark and silent grave,
larion, I soon discovered that it was a preliminary When we have wandered all our ways, Shuts up the story of our days!-
essay to a collection of poems, offered to the readBut from this earth, this grave, this dust
er as expressive and explanatory of its author's The Lord shall raise me up I trust.
views and sentiments. I am not aware that it has C. C.
been before transferred from the French. It certainly possesses, apart from its own merit, an extraordinary interest at this moment. The name of Lamartine has of late been “ great in mouths of wisest censure.” He has blazed “the comet of a season.” At this moment his light is somewhat ob
scured; he has passed behind other shining spheres; THE CHOICE.
erratic meteors flash athwart the troubled sky, and their lurid and flickering glare dims his superior and steadier lustre. Yet I doubt if the time of his
obscuration will be long: he is not invisible to the Cull your roses ye who will, The violets be mine,
telescopic eye of wisdom, and he will soon glow That beside the sparkling rill,
again before the “ wondering, upturned gaze" of grow
mortals, not as portentous of events more dire than Where meeting branches twine.
have already occurred, but a presage of calm and happy seasons to his beloved country. If ever
There was a sincere, honest man, such a one is LaWith amaranths your brows enwreathe, martine. In the law of a just freedom“ doth he All ye who seek renown,
exercise himself day and night." His delight is But flowers that gentler odours breathe, in order and moderation. He abhors anarchy and Shall form my careless crown.
rebellion. He would build up the French Republic, not like the structure of a day, to be tossed
over by every storm of popular fury, but a high Forget-me-nots, sweet friendship's flower,
temple of classic strength and beauty, standing,
like the Parthenon at Athens, unharmed for ages For sappbires shall be set,
and glorious even it its distant, but inevitable ruin. The pearl sprays be of virgin's bower,
There is something singularly gentle and womanWith diamond dew-drops wet.
like-using the expression in its nobler sense-in the character of Lamartine. He has that rare
modesty which ever distinguishes true greatness And violets blue, and violets while,
and real virtue. He never speaks of himself, whethAnd violets rarely dim,
er as a poet or a politician, except in a subdued Sweeter than gems, and far more light,
tone. And yet there is no mistrust of his abilities; Shall fashion all the rim.
he has an unwavering confidence in the right and in his power to perform it. It would be inapposite for me in this place, even had I the least capability
of doing so, to enter upon an examination of his What matter though they quickly fade,
conduct during the late momentous events in Paris, And lose each tender hue,
in which he has acted so prominent a part. But I To seek them in the woodland shade,
may be permitted to remark that in all that he has Will give thee joy anew.
lately spoken or written as a public man, there are C. C. L. discernible a beautiful consonance and harmony
BY ALPHONSE DE LAMARTINE.
with his private essays, with his views of life, with wrote many a column of prose and verse at his rehis hopes for the future, with his love for humanity, quest, and my name may be recollected by some of with his trust in God.
Those readers, who still continue to support a peri. Before the sudden brilliancy of his late career,-odical which has done not a little to elevate the a brilliancy softened, as it were, by the medium literature of the country. through which it passed, made purer by his unsul- Dosoris, Long Island, Sept. 4, 1848. lied character, resembling rather the lustre of the pearl than that of the diamond, Lamartine was
THE DESTINIES OF POETRY. chiefly known to readers in this country by his “ Voyage en L'Orient,” (Pilgrimage to the Holy Land,) and his late history of the Girondists. But
Translated from the French by Park Benjamin. few translations of his poetry have appeared, and those were not of so high an order as to excite any There is nothing within the sphere of man's very lofty estimate of his genius. They were knowledge of which man knows so little as of himmostly descriptive and seemed to be extracted from self. The phenomena of his thoughts, the laws of the body of long poems, and not possessed of a his civilization, the phases of his progress, or de. sufficiently independent interest. It would be no cadence, are the mysteries which he has least inunworthy task for some good French scholar, well vestigated. He better knows the paths of those acquainted with the English language and its rules celestial orbs, that roll millions of miles away from of versification, to attempt a complete rendering of the door of his feeble senses, than those terrestrial a few of Lamartine's long poems. Whether, ac- roads, along which human destiny conducts him cording to the elegant phraseology and unselfish unknown ; he is conscious that he tends towards sense of the retail trade, " it would pay," is worse something, but he knows not whither his spirit than doubtful; but there are surely lovers enough journeys, he cannot tell at what precise pojni he of the pure and beautiful in literature in our repub- las arrived. Tossed upon the immensity of ocean lic to encourage such an effort,—at least so far as far from shore, the pilot can take his altitude and charitably to bestow upon the translator the remu- determine by his compass that line of the globe neration of a scrivener's clerk. But he must be which he crosses or follows; but it is not so with not only disinterested, but appreciative and indus- the human soul; there is no object, out of itself, trious who would undertake such a task. As for by which it can measure its journey, and everytime myself, I should shrink back appalled by the mag- it says—"I am here, I go there, I advance, I renitude and difficulty of the labor, even were I less cede, I stop,"—it finds that it is self-deceived, that painfully conscious of my lack of learning and it has belied its own history--a history which can ability, and could I afford to lavish time unproduc- not be written until its subject has passed away, tively. Even the task, which I have here inef- which marks ils traces only after they have been ficiently performed, has been onerous—although printed upon the earth, but which cannot by anticilightened by my love of the author and his subject. pation designate its road. God alone knows ibe Let him who deems it a facile performance to goal and the way; man knows nothing-false protransfer ornate diction and flowery phrases from phet, he forelells entirely at hazard, and, when fuone language into another, attempt to soar with ture events happen contrary to all his foresight, he Lamartine in one of his splendid flights. Simply is no longer here to witness the contradiction of to construe Lamartine's French, as interliners con- his fate; he reposes in night and silence; he sleeps strue Homer and Virgil, by writing the English his sleep and other generations write opon his dust meaning under the Greek or Latin word, might be other dreams as vain and fleeting as his own. Rerapid work even for a school-boy ; but to give not ligion, politics, philosophy, systems--man has proonly the sense, but the style of such a writer, so nounced upon them all, has been deceived about as to impress the reader with a proper opinion of them all; he has believed all fixed and all have his genius and inanner, is an undertaking which been modified, all immortal and all have perished, original authors, of far higher pretensions than the all true and all have proved false ! present translator, miglit be proud to accomplish. But let me speak of poetry. I can only hope that I may have partially suc- I remember that al my entrance upon the stage ceeded.
of life, there was but one voice as to the irremediOf one thing I am sure. No one, even with my able downfall, the actual and already frozen death inadequate rendering, can fail to discern many lofty of this mysterious faculty of the human spirit. I and glorious thoughts, sacred aspirations, bright was the epoch of the empire ; it was the hour of and hopeful prophecies, in this essay. I take plea- the incarnation of the materialist philosophy of the sure in offering it to the readers of the Southern eighteenth century in government and manners. Literary Messenger, and through it renewing my All the geometricians, who alone had the public ear, correspondence with that excellent magazine. In and who crushed us young men under the insaformer years, during the life of good Mr. White, I 'lent tyranny of their triumph,—believed that they
had dried up forever in us, what had really faded all that could ferment in her a spirit of resistance, and perished in themselves, namely--all the moral, or concentrated indignation, in herself alone, an divine, melodious portion of the mind. Nothing active conspiracy, as capable of exciting lofty incan picture to them who were not subjected to it, tellects against that tyranny of reigning mediocrity, the vain-glorious sterility of that epoch. It was as of placing the poniard in the hands of conspirathe Satanic smile of an infernal genius, when de- tors, or of sıriking the blow herself, 10 restore to grading a whole generation, uprooting all national her own soul that liberty which she desired to give enthusiasm, destroying a virtue in the world. Those to all the world! Being chosen and set apart, men had the same senliment of triumphant impo- whose like nalure has not bestowed upon is-retence in their hearts and on their lips, when they uniting in her own character Corinna and Miratold us—" love, philosophy, religion, enthusiasm, beau ! A sublime tribune, with the tender and erliberty, poetry--all are naught! Calculation and pansive heart of a woman-an adorable and comforce, arithmetic and the sword, they are every- passionate woman with the genius of the Gracchi thing. We believe nothing but what they prove; and the hand of the last of the Catos! Failing to we perceive nothing to which they do not apply. excite a generous enthusiasm in her own country, Poetry died with the Spiritualism which created it!" from which she was expelled, as we put out a spark And they spoke truly; for poeiry was truly dead in an edifice of straw, she took refuge in the mind in their own souls, dead 10 thcir intelligences, dead of England and Gerinany-who alone were at ihat in them and aronnd them. By à sure and prophet- period living a moral life of poetry and philosoic instinct of their destiny, they trembled lest it phy—and thence cast forth into the world those should spring and flourish again with liberty in the sublime and thrilling pages which the clubs of the world; they cast to the wind its smallest ruots, lest police crushed, the custom-house of the intellect it should germinate nnder their feet, in their schools, lore in pieces on the frontiers, the sworn minions in their lyceums, in their gymnasia, in their mili- of tyranny ridiculed at command.—but fragments tary and polytechnic academies. All were organi- of which, escaped from their destroying hands, zed against such a resurrection of the moral and came to console us for our intellectual abasement poetic sentiment; it was a universal league of math- and to wast to our ears and hearts the distant breathematical studies against reflection and poetry. ings of morals, of poetry, of liberty, which we Figures alone were permitted, honored, protected, could not inhale under the pneumatic blasts of slapaid. As arithmetic does not reason, as it is a won- very and mediocrity. derful, passive instrument of tyranny, wliich never M. de Chateaubriand, a genius more melancholy asks for what it is employed, which never inquires and sweet,--a harmonious and enchanted reminiswhether it is made to subserve the oppression of cence of a past, the cinders of which we tread upon mankind, or their deliverance, the slavery of the and whose soul is found in him,-a Homeric imaginamind, or its emancipation, the chief soldier of that tjon thrown into the midst of our social convulsions, epoch wished for no other missionary, no other aid, resembling those beautiful columns of Palmyra, and this aid served him well. There was not an which remain erect and brilliant, unbroken and unidea in Europe, which was not trodden under its soiled, above the black and ragged tents of the heel, nor a mouth which was not gagged by its Arabs, to make us understand, wonder at and weep leaden hand. Since then, I abhor the science of over the monument which is no more! A man, numbers--that negation of all thought. Against who sought for a spark of the sacred fire among that exclusive and jealous power of mathematics, the fragments of the sanctuary, in the still smoking I retain the same sentiment, the same horror, which ruins of Christian temples, and who, seducing their a galley-slave feels for the hard iron and frozen demolishers by pity and indifferent observers by felters upon his limbs, and of which he thinks that his genius, found again some doctrine in the heart he can still perceive the cold and deathly chill, and restored faith to the imagination. The words whenever he hears the clanking of a chain. Math- of liberty and of political virtue sound less freematics were the chains of human thought. I quently and less loftily in his altogether poetic pabreathe : those chains are broken.
ges; he was not the Dante of an enslaved FlorTwo great geniuses, whom tyranny watched with ence, he was the Tasso of a lost country, of a unquiet eye, protested aloud against this death family of proscribed Kings, singing of its affecWarrant of the soul, of the intellect, of poetry-- tions betrayed, iis altars overthrown, its towers deMadame de Staēl and M. de Chateaubriand. Ma- molished, its goods and its Kings driven awaydame de Staël, a masculine genius in the form of singing of them in the ears of the proscribers, on a woman,--a mind distracted by the superabun- the borders even of the rivers of the country. dance of its strength, restless, passionate, anda. Still, his grand and noble soul imparted to the songs cious, capable of generous and sudden resolves, of the poet something of the accent of the citizen. hot able to breathe in that atmosphere of cowar- He thrilled all the generous fibres of the breast; dice and servitude, demanding space and free air he ennobled the mind; he resuscitated the soul; around her, altracting as if by magnetic instinct it was sufficient to disturb the slumbers of the jailers of our intellect. By I know not what instinct the wintry north-east, or the rolling of the heavy of their nature they presaged an avenger in the clouds that broke against the corners of the moonman, who charmed them in their own despite. tains, or to the aerial melody of the lark, which They know that nobler sentiments meet and en the wind bore from its sphere of music-even as gender more, and that in hearts stirred by religious my thoughts, stronger than myself, transported my emotions and manly, independent thoughts, tyranny soul. Were these impressions of joy or sadness, would find judges and liberty accomplices. of grief or suffering? I cannot tell : they par.
From those days I have loved those gifted pre-cook of all those sentiments at the same time. cursors of genius, who appeared to me and gave They were of love and religious presentiments of me consolation on my entrance into life. Staël after life both delicious and sad, of ecslacies and and Chateaubriand—ihose two names fill much of discouragements, of horizons of lights and depths the void, illumine much of the shadow. They of darkness, of gladness and tears, of the fatore were for us like two living protestations against the and of despair. Nature was speaking by her thogoppression of the soul and the heart, against the sand voices to the still virgin heart of man; above debasement and ruin of the age; they were the all it was poetry. That poetry I sometimes esaliment of our solitary households, the concealed sayed to express in verses ; but I had no one to bread of our oppressed souls ; they seemed to us whom these verses could be repeated; sometimes a family heritage, they were of our blood and we I read them to myself; and I found with sorprise of theirs, and there is scarcely one among us who and grief that they bore no resemblance to those owes not to them what he was, is, or will be. which I read in the collections and solutnes of the
At that time, I lived alone, my heart overflowing day. I said to myself, one will desire to read with suppressed sentiments, with onwritten poetry, them; they will appear strange, ridiculous, sillysometimes in Paris hidden in that crowd where you so I burned them half written out. I thus destroy. are justled only by gallanis and soldiers ; some. ed some volumes of that first and vague poetry of times at Rome, where no other noise was heard but the heart; and it was well that I did so; for, at that of stones falling one by one in the desert of that period, they would have been brought forth in the abandoned streels ; somelimes at Naples where ridicule aud died in the general contempt of all that the warın sky, the blue sea, and the balmy earth, was denominated literature. enervated without putting me to sleep, and where What I have since written is not worth mech an inner voice always told me that there was some more ; but the times have changed ; poelry returnthing more lively, more noble, more delightful to ed to France with liberty, with free thought, with the soul than that torpid life of the senses and that that moral life, which was restored 10 us by the voluptuous sufiness of iis music and its loves. restoration. It seemned as if the relurn of the Oftener still I resorted to the country to spend the Bourbons and of liberty to France imparted a new melancholy antumn in the lonely mansion of my fa- inspiration, another soul to the oppressed and slum. ther and mulher, in peace, in stillness, in the donies- bering literature of the day, and we then saw arise tic sanctity of the sweet impressions of the fire. a host of celebrated names in poetry or in philosa. side ; by day traversing the forests, at evening read-phy, which still throng our academies and constiing what I found under the ancient radiance of the lule the brilliant chain of iransition between the family library.
two epochs. Who could then have told me ibai, Job, Homer, Virgil, Tasso, Milton, Rousseau, and fifteen years after, poetry would overflow the souls more than all, Ossian and Paul and Virginia—these of the youth of France ; that talents of various book-friends spoke to me in solitude the language and new orders would spring from that cold and of my heart ; a language of harmony, of images, dead soil; that the press, multiplied to infinitude
, of passion ; I lived sometimes with one, sometimes would scarcely suffice to disseininate the ferrent with another, not changing them except when, so thoughts of an army of young writers ; that the to speak, I had quite exhausted them. As long as drama would be knocking at the doors of the thes. I live, I shall remember certain hours of summer tres ; that the lyric and religious soul of a genera. which I passed extended on the grass in a clearing tion of Christian bards would invent a new lanof the woods, in the shadow of an old :runk of the guage to reveal unknown enthusiasms ; that liberwild apple tree, reading The Jerusalem Delwered, iy, faith, philosophy, politics, doctrines the most and as many evenings of autumn or winter spent ancient as well as modern, would in the face of in roaning over the hills already garmented in foys day be manifested by genius, glory, talents and at. and frost, with Ossian or Werther for a compan dor, and that a vast and sublime combination of jon, sometimes lified up by the inner euthusiasm minds would cover not only France, but the world
, that consumed me, running over the furze as if with the most powerful as well as beautiful intelwafted by a spirit which prevented my feet from lecinality that any age has ever beheld ? If any touching the sod ; sometimes seated on a gray rock, one would have predicted all this, I should not have my forehead in my hands, listening, with a name believed it ; and yet it is so. Poetry was not even less emotion, to the sliarp and plaintive whistle of then defunct in the souls of men, though we were
so told in those years of scepticism and algebra
All this is poetry.
It is even man himself; it is and, if it did not then expire, surely it will live for the instinct of all his epochs; it is the inner echo
of all his human impressions ; it is the voice of So long as man himself survives, can his finest thinking and sentient humanity, taken up and refaculty be extinguished ? And is not poetry that modulated by certain men—more manly than the faculty ? Since it constitutes all that is divine with common herd-mens divinior-hovering over this in us, it cannot be defined by one word or a thou- tumultuous and confused noise of generations exsand words. It is an incarnation of all that is most isting longer than they and giving witness to posprecious in the heart of man and most holy in his terity of their lamentations and their joys, their spirit, of all that is most sublime in the aspect of deeds and their thoughts. Never will this voice Nature and most melodious in her tones. It is at be silent in the world; for it was not invented by the same time sentiment and sensation, mind and man. It was bestowed by God himself, and it was malter, and this is the reason that it is a complete the first cry from humanity which ascended to his langoage—the language which above all appeals to throne. It will also be the latest which the Creaman through his entire humanity-an idea for the tor will hear from the lips of the created, when he spirit, sentiment for the soul, image for the fancy, shall break in pieces the work of his hands. Deand music for the ear! This is why this lan- rived from him, to him it will return. guage, when weld spoken, strikes man like a thun
One day, while journeying in the Holy Land, I der-peal, overpowers him with internal conviction, had pitched my tent in a rude and rocky field, in or irresistible evidence, or enchants him like a which there grew many knotty and stunted olivemagic potion, or rocks him into moveless pleasure trees, under the walls of Jerusalem, some hundred like a child charmed in its cradle by the touching paces from the tower of David, a little below refrains of its mother's lullaby. Hence it is that man can neither create nor bear loo much poetry ;
“Siloa's brook that flowed for, possessing him wholly by his soul and sense,
Fast by the oracle of God,"* exciting at the same time this double facullythought by thought, sense by sensation, it exhausts which still glided over the used basin of its grotto, him, it weighs him down tou soon, like all too ex- not distant from the tomb of the poet-king who had quisite joys, with a voluptuous weariness, and cau- so often sung its beauties. The high and black ses bim to express, in but few verses and brief terraces, which formerly supported Solomon's temtime, all the innermost life and power of sentiment ple, rose on my left, crowned by the three azure in his double organization.
domes and the light and aërial columns of the Prose addresses itself only to the mind ; poetry Mosque of Omar, which now overlooks the ruins speaks to the mind and the sensations at the same of the mansion of Jehovah. The city of Jerusatime. This language, all mysterious, all instinc- lem, where the plague then raged, was at the motive as it is, or rather because it is mysterious and ment inundated with the rays of a dazzling sun, instinctive,—this language will never die! It is glinted back from its thousand domes, its white not—as people have not ceased to say in spite of marble structures, its lowers of gilded stone, and the successive contradictions of all ages, it is not its walls polished by ages and the salt breezes of solely the language of mankind's infancy; it is the the Asphaltic lake. No noise came from its prelanguage of all the periods of humanity, simple cincts, dumb and solemn as the couch of the dying; and modest in the babyhood of nations, story-tel- its large gates were open, and from time to time, ling and marvellous as the nurse at the bedside of were descried the white turhan and red mantle of the child, loving and pastoral with young and pas- the Arab soldier,-useless guardian of those abantoral people, warlike and epic with contending and doned portals. Nothing went in, nothing departconquering hordes ; mystical, lyrical, prophetic, ed. The wind of the morning alone raised the or sententious, in the theocracies of Egypt or Ju-wave-like dust of the roads and created the modea ; grave, philosophical and corrupting in the mentary illusion of a moving caravan; but when matured civilizations of Rome, Florence, or Louis the gusts of wind had passed on, when they had XIV.; reckless and noisy in the epochs of conval- died away in murmurs over the battlements of the sion and ruin as in the year 1793 ; novel, melan- tower of the Pisans or the three palms before the eholy, uncertain, timid and audacious at the same house of Caiaphas, the dust subsided, the desert time, in days of new birth and social reconstruc- reappeared, and neither the step of mule nor camel tion like the present! By and by, in the servility resounded on the pavements of the way. Only, of mankind, sad, sombre, lamenting and despairing, every quarter of an hour, were the two iron leaves breathing in its strophes mournful presentiments, of each of the gates of Jerusalem thrown apart, and fantastic visions of the final catastrophe of the world, or giving utterance to fixed and holy hopes
* The quotation is so appropriate, that I needs must inof the resurrection of humanity under another troduce it instead of writing simply, "ibe fountains of Si