صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

the injured by ties of blood. The finest description of a wanton coquette in all literature is that given of Cressida by Ulysses.

“ Fy–fy upon her
There's language in her cheek-her eye-her lip-
Nay, her foot speaks. Her wanton spirits look out
At every joint and motion of her body.
Oh! these encounterers that are so glib of tongue,
That give a coasting welcome ere it comes,
And wide unclasp the tables of their thoughts
To every ticklish reader-set them down
For sluttish spoils of opportunity,

And daughters of the game.” We never knew any person who did not express his admiration at the force and literal fidelity of this exquisite passage, and recognise in it thoughts and feelings which had occurred to himself repeatedly, though he was unable to give them utterance. Who does not feel the amazing truth of the language of the lip, the cheek, the eye? Before we consigned this description to paper, we determined to test its faithfulness more fully, as an unrivalled opportunity presented itself. We accordingly set off from whence we now write to the neighbouring town of K—11-y, where fortunately the very queen of coquettes has taken up her abode. There was the Cressid of Kerry in all the full bloom of self-satisfaction, surrounded by a troop of admirers, numerous and ardent as the wooers of Penelope. We did not see the fair one walk, and as she wore her robe rather long, we could not be certain as to the language her foot spoke ; but her cheek but too plainly said “ soothe me”—her eye “ look into me”—and her lip

The very atmosphere around her seemed to be infused with wantonness. She appeared to have no peculiar favourite, for all were equally blessed with her inexhaustible profusion of beams and smiles. Each in her society deemed himself “the only loved one;" but no sooner did he press her unreluctant hand, and turn on his heel, happy in the delightful reflection that the triumph was his,

coasting welcome” attracted another adorer, and for him too the flexible tables of her thought were unclasped. Again the same glibness of tongue—the same lavishing of love-the same fervid round of vows and protestations—and thus the poor spoil of opportunity fulfils her unenviable destiny. We were convinced, on a passing reflection, that Shakspeare contemplated nature with a truthfulness never possessed by any other being, and that he was equally felicitous in describing the great and absorbing passions of man, as well as the airy and frivolous qualities that constitute the village coquette.

The quotation of another passage will be excused, because it ex. presses in a manner philosophically accurate that very difficulty of connecting words, so as to embrace a notion that strongly possesses the mind. The poet in Timon of Athens says

press me.”

than a

“ I'm rapt, and cannot cover The monstrous bulk of huge ingratitude With any size of words.”

Shakspeare himself had undoubtedly often felt that gasping and straining of the mind to deliver itself of its conceptions; and had not nature deeply endued him with the capacity for powerful emotions, he would not have painted his sentiments in such clear and glowing words, and left behind him so many truths embodied in language of so much beauty and vigour. The highest order of description is that of the passions, and internal state of man, in which Shakspeare stands far above all men that ever lived, not excepting Homer, who comes next; for Dante, in our opinion, is immeasurably below either in this department of the intellect. The lowest order, on the other hand, is that of external objects—and even in this how few persons succeed ! Here, certainly, judgment and taste, qualities purely mental, are employed ; but who that has attempted the description of outward objects does not know from experience that the page often halts from the mere want of expression? You see all before you-you have not, as in the description of internal objects, to seek out invisible connexions, forms, and colours, and give palpability to airy nothings. All you have to do is to express in forcible words the effect produced on the imagination by a group of objects standing before you, and their mutual dependence on each other. But though apparently easy, how often difficult to accomplish! A friend of ours, not deficient in the

power of expression, has often mentioned, as a proof of the extraordinary beauty of nature—and the truth is a striking one—that he stopped for nearly an hour one night, looking at the moon shining through a broad rift in the clouds. The place was of all others the most favourable to stir the imagination, and mould its working into words. He stood on the summit of a huge rock called the Tunnel, on the beautiful road leading from Killarney to Kenmare,—the lake below was without a wave, and the universal stillness uninterrupted, save by the welcome melody of a distant bugle starting the echoes of the Eagle's Nest. Before him the magnificent range of the Reeks was covered with a mass of dark vapour, whose blackness was, however, beautifully relieved by the delicate chasing of silver around its edges. Suddenly the thick darkness gave way, and the full moon burst out in a flood of glory, realising Homer's noble description of an Asiatic night,

As when the moon, refulgent lamp of night,

O'er heaven's clear azure spreads her sacred light-
When not a breath disturbs the deep serene,
And not a cloud o'ercasts the solemn scene-
Around her throne the vivid planets roll,
And stars unnumbered gild the glowing pole;
O'er the dark trees a yellower verdure shed,

And tip with silver every mountain-head.” This was a sufficiently inspiring sight, and he endeavoured to frame, with the objects before him, a description such as would convey a correct matter-of-fact notion of the scene, but was obliged to abandon the attempt in despair. A curious question would arise here, connected with a subject which has long been a matter of debate: What is the actual genius required in each profession? What is the difference between the language of the painter, the actor, and the writer

the language of colours, motions, and ideas ? And why is excellence in one species of style, that of the writer, more indicative of intellect than that in another ? To this it may be answered, that even going so far as to consider all three employed in the mere enunciation of .certain ideas assigned to them for that purpose, yet the writer invents several thoughts — uses illustrations, similes, analogies, contrasts, allusions to impress, elevate, and adorn the subject—while the actor and the painter labour to convey their notions of it by means exceedingly mechanical. In all three the conception of the subject may be equal, but unquestionably the mind is infinitely more employed in conveying that conception through the medium of words. Consequently, as the operations of the mind are much more valuable than the mechanical application of gestures and colours, the style of the writer has a clear undisputed superiority over that of all the others. In this also he has a decided advantage, that the domain of words is much more extensive than that of either colours or gestures. Gestures, indeed, are of little or no force without words ;-not to speak at all of whole regions from which they are entirely excluded, they rather seem fitted to enforce ideas already excited, than to originate them. They continue an impetus, but they cannot create it. Let them be considered by themselves, and they are mere ciphers. We should consider the man who would throw himself into grotesque attitudes, and indulge in violent gesture without the expository medium of words -on the stage, a silly pantomimist-off it, a maniac or fool. What would Kean be in Lear or Othello, without the language of Shakspeare? Without words, gestures are worthless, but placed behind other figures they swell the value to an enormous amount. And in another view, like instinct, of the nature of which they partake, they have great power within a certain range, but it is a limited range. The field of the painter, though considerably more extensive, is still very narrow compared with that of the writer. In the noblest department, the historical, he communicates nothing new-he can tell nothing that was absolutely unknown before. If the subject be not known to us, the painting is merely a coloured piece of canvass; and therefore, the first question we ask, on entering a gallery—what is this ? Even in imagination, which lends such a grandeur, terror, and beauty to our thoughts, how poor is painting--on reflection how ridiculous ? What a ludicrous shift it was when Sir Joshua painted a caricature of the devil (such as we commonly see in printships) whispering into the ear of Beaufort ? Would he also have painted a dagger in the air, and made Macbeth clutch at it? The finest passage in the “ Deformed Transformed” is where the Constable Bourbon stands aghast at the array of ancient glories that encircle Rome

“ Behold! a thousand years have manned the walls

With all their heroes! The last Cato stands
And tears his bowels, rather than survive
The liberty of that I would enslave!
And with his triumphs the first Cæsar flits

From battlement to battlement.” This is a noble conception, but utterly inaccessible to the painter as a subject for his art. He might raise a twelve-inch mound, and stud it with stiff figures in spear and helmet to represent the walls and heroes -he might have Cato too, expiring with his entrails in his hands, but how weak and trivial would it be, compared with the words ! How could he express, that Cato perished rather than outlive the liberty of his country? Is not that beyond his art? Or how could he represent in colours the beautiful conception of Cæsar flying from battlement to battlement, to strike an ancient terror into the enemies of Rome? The range of words, therefore, being much more extensive than either gestures or colours, we properly give the preference to the writer, on the same principle that we account him a greater general who is able to manœuvre three or four hundred thousand men, than he who can manage no more than thirty thousand. If indeed we only consider for a moment, how perfectly dependent on physical structure the painter and actor are, and how large a portion of mankind would be almost totally deprived of the noblest interchange of thought, if there existed no other species of language, it must appear plain that words “ exciting the various ideas-names, thoughts, things, beauty, and harmony -were intended to be the great instruments of human communication, and consequently the mode best calculated for the display of thought. Upon many men, and of great intellects too, painting produces no effect. “ What an extraordinary collection of beautiful frames l" was the homely observation of Sir Humphrey Davy, on entering the magnificent gallery of the Louvre; nor was he diverted from his admiration of the frames until he came to an Antinous, executed in alabaster, when he exclaimed, “What a surpassing stalactyte !" The exquisite harmony of the sculpture left no trace on his mind- the beautiful minion of Adrian was forgotten in the admiration of the material. But language, though it certainly be arbitrary in the particular form it may assume, seems to us as perfectly necessary as the continuation of the species. En passant, it may be incidentally thrown out to the “ sons of the physicians," as a subject not undeserving of inquiry, whether there does not exist some curious and secret connexion between the mind and respiration, and whether the amount of mental energy does not bear some relation to the volume of air inhaled, compared with that of the whole body?

The principal sources of style may be reduced to the heads of incidental thoughts, propriety of speech, harmony of sound, and association. (The last word does not fully express all that we would wish to convey—the thing meant is a process of reasoning which is not implied in the ordinary signification of that word.) of these four heads the last is by much the most important. It includes something of what is found in all the others, and possesses besides a large sphere of peculiar authority. Thus, independent of the intrinsic beauty of a simile, further considerations arise as to the judicious introduction of it on that particular occasion, or, in short, any other, whereby an opinion may be formed of the acuteness, taste, or good sense of the writer. To the same does it belong, whether a daring contempt for the ordinary usage of language may not be natural and noble ; and, with regard to the harmony of sound, there is the inference as to the masterly ease of the author derived from accumulated experience of the fact that the finest instances of harmonious structure are found in the best writers, whether in prose or verse. Scott, speaking of the natural flow of Swift's verse, very happily observes, that the fetters of rhyme are no more than a bracelet to the true poet- the graceful compression, instead of constraining, adorns, and teaches his thoughts to move on in even harmony. From a rapid comparison of these heads, the intimate .connexion between mind and style will be immediately apparent. Under the first are classed all those thoughts, analogies, and similes which are used to dignify, illustrate, and impress the views which it is the writer's more proper and important design to unfold. And here, independent of the intellect evinced in discovering the similitude, we also take into account the meanness or sublimity of the object from which the likeness is deduced, the acuteness of the observation, the philosophic habits of the writer, and the impressive clearness of the analogy. The first requisite of an author is to express his meaning distinctly, and this he will accomplish almost in an invariable ratio to the energy and vividness of his conceptions. For this purpose, nothing is more useful to the writer than analogies borrowed from the senses. But surely it is a matter of no inconsiderable difficulty to select from the whole compass of nature the only object which can exhibit the desired relation, particularly when it is further restricted by the condition of admitting none but a noble or affecting one. There is a very fine passage in “ Thoughts on the Causes of the Present Discontent," which will illustrate what we have been advancing. “ When the people conceive that laws and tribunals, and even popular assemblies, are perverted from the ends of their institution, they find in these names of degenerated establishments only new motives to discontent. Those bodies, which, when full of life, lay in their arms and were their joy and comfort, when dead and putrid; become but the more loathsome from the remem- . brance of former endearments.” Does the beauty of the passage

arise from the mere similitude ? Certainly not; but from this, that free institutions are thus connected with all that is sacred and tender in domestic life. And from a similar principle we admire the truth of Junius.“ Private credit is wealth-public credit is security. The feather that adorns the royal bird supports his flight; strip him of his plumage, and you fix him to the earth.” Longinus very finely says of Homer's notions of the gods, that they are the dreams of Jove. Another quality distinctive of great writers, and a cause of much pleasure to the reader, is the new views they take of nature. So strongly marked is this, that there is not a simile or description in a good poet which does not notice things that never were perceived by any others, though the moment they are pointed out, all acknowledge they have seen them before. Here the perception of Homer is prodigious ! One is tempted to exclaim with Herder, how did he in the infancy of civilisation attain that total world of things and persons in heaven and earth that lies open in his song ? How did he reach that wide comprehension of the universe with its exactest portraiture? But though much inclined to dwell here on the multitudinous merits of the old bard, we must pass on to consider how beautifully nature fares in his hands.

“ The waveless ocean, in its noontide slumbers,”

« السابقةمتابعة »