Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

cus and Paros. Even the exterior of the land, America, but where shall we temples glowed with the richest harmony find one which produced the Partheof colours, and was decorated with the non or the Apollo Belvidere, the Trapurest gold; an atmosphere peculiarly fa- gedies of Æschylus or the wisdom of vourable both to the display and the pre- Socrates, the thought of Thucydides servation of art, permitted to external pe- or the visions of Plato ? How has it diments and friezes all the minuteness of

happened that those democratic instiornament-all the brilliancy of colours ;

tutions, which in modern times are such as in the interior of Italian churches

found to be generally associated only may yet be seen-vitiated, in the last, by a gaudy and barbarous taste. Nor did the

with vulgar manners, urban discord, Athenians spare any cost upon the works

or commercial desires, should there that were, like the tombs and tripods of have elevated the nation in a few years their heroes, to be the monuments of a

to the highest pinnacle of intellectual nation to distant ages, and to transmit the

glory--that, instead of Dutch ponderomost irrefragable proof that the power

sity, or Swiss slowness, of American of ancient Greece was not an idle legend.' conceit, or Florentine discord, repubThe whole democracy were animated with

licanism on the shores of Attica prothe passion of Pericles ; and when Phidias duced the fire of Demosthenes, the recommended marble as a cheaper mate- grace of Euripides, the narrative of rial than ivory for the great statue of Mi- Xenophon, the taste of Phidias? After nerva, it was for that reason that ivory the most attentive consideration, we was preferred by the unanimous voice of find it impossible to explain this marvel the assembly. Thus, whether it were ex- of marvels by the agency merely of travagance or magnificence, the blame in human causes ; and are constrained to one case, the admiration in another, rests ascribe the placing of the eye of Greece pot more with the minister than the popu- on the shores of Attica to the same lace. It was, indeed, the great character- invisible hand which has fixed the istic of those works, that they were entire

wonders of vision in the human forely the creations of the people: without the

head. There are certain starts in hupeople, Pericles could not have built a temple, or engaged a sculptor. The mi

man progress, and more especially in

the advance of art, which it is utterly racles of that day resulted from the enthusiasm of a population yet young-full of the immediate design and agency of the

hopeless to refer to any other cause but the first ardour for the Beautiful-dedicating to the State, as to a mistress, the tro

Almighty. Democratic institutions afphies honourably won, or the treasures in

ford no sort of explanation of them : juriously extorted—and uniting the re

we see no Parthenons, nor Sophocles, sources of a nation with the energy of an

nor Platos in embryo, either in Ameindividual, because the toil, the cost, were

rica since its independence, or France borne by those who succeeded to the en- during the Revolution, nor England joyment and arrogated the glory.”

since the passing of the Reform Bill.

When we reflect that taste in Athens, This is eloquently said : but in look- in thirty years after the Persian invaing for the causes of the Athenian su- sion, had risen up from the infantine premacy in taste and art, especially rudeness of the Ægina Marbles to the sculpture and architecture, we suspect faultless perystyle and matchless sculpthe historic observer must look for ture of the Parthenon: that in mo. higher and more spiritual causes than dern Italy, the art of painting rose in the mere energy and feverish excite- the lifetime of a single individual, ment of democratic institutions. For, who died at the age of thirty-eight, admitting that energy and universal from the stiff outline and hard colourexertion are in every age the charac- ing of Pietro Perrugino to the exquiteristic of republican states, how did site grace of Raphael: and that it it happen that, in Athens alone, it was during an age when the barons took so early and decidedly the direc- to the north of the Alps could neither tion of taste and art ? That is the read nor write, and when rushes were point which constitutes the marvel, as strewed on the floors instead of car. well as the extraordinary perfection pets, that the unrivalled sublimity of which it at once acquired. Many Gothic Cathedrals was conceived, and other nations in ancient and modern the hitherto unequalled skill of their times bave been republican,—Corinth, structure attained: we are constrained Tyre, Carthage, Sidon, Sardis, Syra- to admit that a greater power than cuse, Marseilles, Holland, Switzers that of man superintends' human af

[ocr errors]

fairs, and that, from the rudest and announced the promise of coming vic, most unpromising materials, Provi- tory. dence can, at the appointed season, “ Therewith, the order of battle rang bring forth the greatest and most ex- instantly through the army, and, to use alted efforts of human intellect.

the poetical comparison of Plutarch, the As a favourable specimen of our

Spartan phalanx suddenly stood forth in author's powers of military description,

its strength, like some fierce animalmo unimportant quality in a historian, erecting its bristles and preparing its ven

geance for the foe. The ground, broken we shall gratify our readers by his account of the battle of Platea, the most

in many steep and precipitous ridges, and

intersected by the Asopus, whose sluggish vital conflict to the fortunes of the

stream winds over a broad and rushy bed, species which occurred in all antiquity,

was unfavourable to the movements of caand which we have never elsewhere valry, and the Persian foot advanced thereread in so graphic and animated a

fore on the Greeks. form

“ Drawn up in their massive phalanx, “ As the troops of Mardonius advan- the Lacedæmonians presented an almost ced, the rest of the Persian armament, impenetrable body-sweeping slowly on, deeming the task was now not to fight but compact and serried-while the hot and to pursue, raised their standards and pour- undisciplined valour of the Persians, more ed forward tumultuously, without disci- fortunate in the skirmish than the battle, pline or order.

broke itself in a thousand waves upon that Pausanias, pressed by the Persian moving rock. Pouring on in small numline, and if not of a timorous, at least of bers at a time, they fell fast round the proan irresolute, temper, lost no time in send- gress of the Greeks-their armour slight ing to the Athenians for succour. But against the strong pikes of Sparta-their when the latter were on their march with courage without skill-their numbers withthe required aid, they were suddenly in- out discipline; still they fought gallantly, tercepted by the auxiliary Greeks in the even when on the ground seizing the pikes Persian service, and cut off from the res- with their naked hands, and with the woncue of the Spartans.

derful agility which still characterises the "The Spartans beheld themselves thus Oriental swordsmen, springing to their left unsupported, with considerable alarm. feet, and regaining their arms, when seemYet their force, including the Teageans ingly overcome-wresting away their eneand Helots, was fifty-three thousand men. my's shields, and grappling with them Committing himself to the gods, Pausa- desperately hand to hand. nias ordained a solemn sacrifice, his whole “ Foremost of a band of a thousand army awaiting the result, while the shafts chosen Persians, conspicuous by his white of the Persian bowmen poured on them charger, and still more by his daring near and fast.

But the entrails presented valour, rode Mardonius, directing the atdiscouraging omens, and the sacrifice was tack-fiercer wherever his armour blazed. again renewed. Meanwhile the Spartans Inspired by his presence, the Persians evinced their characteristic fortitude and fought worthily of their warlike fame, and, discipline--not one man stirring from his even in falling, thinned the Spartan ranks. ranks until the auguries should assume a At length the rash but gallant leader of more favouring aspect; all harassed, and the Asiatic armies received a mortal some wounded, by the Persian arrows, wound_his skull was crushed in by a they yet, seeking protection only beneath stone from the hand of a Spartan. His their broad bucklers, waited with a stern chosen band, the boast of the army, fell patience the time of their leader and of fighting round him, but his death was the Heaven. Then fell Callicrates, the state. general signal of defeat and flight. Enliest and strongest soldier in the whole cumbered by their long robes, and pressed army, lamenting, not death, but that his by the relentless conquerors, the Persians sword was as yet undrawn against the in- fled in disorder towards their camp, which vader.

was secured by wooden entrenchments, “ And still sacrifice after sacrifice seem- by gates and towers and walls. Here, ed to forbid the battle, when Pausanias, fortifying themselves as they best might, lifting his eyes that streamed with tears, they contended successfully, and with adto the temple of Juno, that stood hard by, vantage, against the Lacedæmonians, who supplicated the tutelary goddess of Cithæ- were ill skilled in assault and siege. ron, that if the fates forbade the Greeks “ Mean-while, the Athenians obtained to conquer, they might at least fall like the victory on the plains over the Greeks warriors.

And while uttering this prayer, of Mardonius-finding their most resolute the tukens waited for became suddenly enemy in the Thebans-(three hundred of visible in the victims, and the augurs whose principal warriors fell in the field)

)

—and now joined the Spartans at the and sustained sublimity is perhaps unPersian camp.

The Athenians are said rivalled in the literature of the world, we to have been better skilled in the art of lose sight entirely of the cheerful Hellenic siege than the Spartans ; yet at that time worship; and yet it is in vain that the their experience could scarcely have been learned attempt to trace its vague and mysgreater. The Athenians were at all times, terious metaphysics to any old symbolical however, of a more impetuous temper; religion of the East. More probably, whatand the men who had ' run to the charge' ever theological system it shadows forth, was at Marathon, were not to be baffled by rather the gigantic conception of the poet the desperate remnant of their ancient himself, than the imperfect revival of any foe. They scaled the walls—they effected forgotten creed, or the poetical disguise a breach through which the Tegeans were of any existent philosophy.

However the first to rush—the Greeks poured fast this be, it would certainly seem, that, in and fierce into the camp. Appalled, dis-, this majestic picture of the dauntless enemayed, stupified, by the suddenness and my of Jupiter, punished only for his benegreatness of their loss, the Persians no fits to man, and attracting all our sympalonger sustained their fame—they dis- thies by his courage and his benevolence, persed themselves in all directions, falling, is conveyed something of disbelief or deas they red, with a prodigious slaughter, fiance of the creed of the populace-a sus. so that out of that mighty armament scarce picion from which Æschylus was not free three thousand effected an escape.

in the judgment of his contemporaries, and Our limits will admit of only one ex

which is by no means inconsonant with the tract more, but it is on a different sub

doctrines of Pythagoras.” ject, and exhibits Mr Bulwer's powers Mr Bulwer justifies this warm euloof criticism in the fields of poetry and gium by some beautiful translations. romance, with which he has long been We select his animated version of the familiar:

exquisite passageso well known to scho“ Summoning before us the external lars, where Clytemnestra describes to character of the Athenian drama, the vast

the Chorus the progress of the watchaudience, the unroofed and enormous fires which announced to expecting theatre, the actors themselves enlarged by

Greece the fall of Troy-a passage perart above the ordinary proportions of men,

haps unrivalled in the classical authors the solemn and sacred subjects from which

in picturesque and vivid images, and its form and spirit were derived, we turn

which approaches more nearly, though 10 Eschylus, and behold at once the fitting creator of its grand and ideal personifica

it has surpassed in sublimity, Sir Wal. tions. I have said that Homer was his

ter Scott's description of the bale-fires

which announced to the Lothians a original; but a more intellectual age than that of the Grecian epic had arrived, and

Warden inroad of the English forces:with Eschylus, philosophy passed into “ A gleam--a gleam from Ida's height, poetry. The dark doctrine of Fatality By the Fire-god sent, it came ;imparted its stern and awful interest to From watch to watch it leapt that light, the narration of events--men were de- As a rider rode the Flame ! lineated, not as mere self-acting and self- It shot through the startled sky, willed mortals, but as the agents of a des

And the torch of that blazing glory tiny inevitable and unseen the gods Old Lemnos caught on high, themselves are no longer the gods of

On its holy promontory. Homer, entering into the sphere of human And sent it on, the jocund sign, action for petty motives, and for indivi- To Athos, Mount of Jove divine. dual purposes_drawing their grandeur, Wildly the while, it rose from the isle, not from the part they perform, but from So that the might of the journeying Light the descriptions of the poet ;—they appear Skimmed over the back of the gleaming now as the oracles or the agents of Fate

brine ! they are visitors from another world, ter- Farther and faster speeds it on, rible and ominous from the warnings Till the watch that keep Macistus steepwhich they convey. Homer is the creator

See it burst like a blazing Sun ! of the Material poetry, Æschylus of the

Doth Macistus sleep Intellectual. The corporeal and animal

On his tower-clad steep? sufferings of the Titan in the Epic hell be. No! rapid and red doth the wild fire come exalted by Tragedy into the portrait

sweep; of moral Fortitude defying physical An- It flashes afar, on the wayward stream guish. The Prometheus of Æschylus is Of the wild Euripus, the rushing beam! the spirit of a god disdainfully subjected It rouses the light on Messapion's height, to the misfortunes of a man, In reading And they feed its breath with the withered this wonderful performance, which in pure heath,

[ocr errors]

But it may not stay!

well as his own remarkable

powers of And away-away

narrative and description afford. By It bounds in its freshening might. the common calculation of chances, it

is impossible to suppose that the arisSilent and soon,

tocracies are always in the wrong, and Like a broadened moon,

the democracies always in the right; It passes in sheen, Asopus green, that the former are for ever actuated And bursts on Cithæron grey!

by selfish, corrupt, and discreditable The warder wakes to the Signal-rays, motives, and the latter everlastingly And it swoops from the hill with a broader

influenced by generous, ennobling, and blaze,

upright feelings. We may predicate On-on the fiery Glory rodeThy lonely lake, Gorgopis, glowed

with perfect certainty of any author To Megara's Mount it came ;

who indulges in such a strain of thought They feed it again,

and expression, extravagant eulogiums And it streams amain

from his own party in the outset, and A giant beard of Flame !

possibly undeserved but certain neThe headland cliffs that darkly down

glect from posterity in the end. ManO'er the Saronic waters frown,

kind, in future times, when present Are pass'd with the Swift One's lurid objects and party excitement have stride,

ceased, will never read-or, at least, And the huge rock glares on the glaring never attach faith to-any works which tide,

place all the praise on the one side With mightier march and fiercer power and all the blame to the other of any It gained Arachne's neighbouring tower- of the children of Adam. Rely upon Thence on our Argive roof its rest it won, it, virtue and vice are very equally diOf Ida's fire the long-descended Son! vided in the world: praise and blame Bright harbinger of glory and of joy!

require to be very equally bestowed. So first and last with equal honour crown'd,

Different institutions produce a widely In solemn feasts the race-torch circles

different effect upon society and the round. And these my heralds !--this my SIGN OF

progress of human affairs : but it is

not because the one makes all men PEACE; Lo! while we breathe, the victor lords of good, the other all men bad; but beGreece,

cause the one permits the bad or selfish Stalk, in stern tumult, through the halls qualities of one class to exercise an of Troy.'"

unrestrained influence—the other, be

cause it arrays against their excesses We have now discharged the pleas- the bad or selfish qualities of the other ing duty of quoting some of the gems, classes. All theories of government and pointing out some of the merits founded upon the virtue of mankind of this remarkable work. It remains or the perfectability of human nature, with equal impartiality, and in no un- will, to the end of the world, be disfriendly spirit, to glance at some of its proved by the experience, and discardfaults-faults which, we fear, will per- ed by the common sense of mankind. manently prevent it from taking the Mother Eve has proved, and will place to which it is entitled from its prove, more than a match for the brilliancy and research in the archives strongest of her descendants. Instaof literature.

bility, selfishness, folly, ambition, raThe first of these defects is the con- pacity, ever have and ever will chastant effort which is made to justify racterise alike democratic and aristothe proceedings, and extenuate the cratic societies and governor. The faults, and magnify the merits of de wisdom of government and political mocratic societies; and the equally philosophy consists not in expecting uniform attempt to underrate the va- or calculating on impossibilities from lue of aristocratic institutions, and a corrupted being, but in so arranging blacken the proceedings of aristocratic society and political powers that the states. This, as Fouché would say, selfishness and rapacity of the oppois worse than an offence—it is a fault. site classes of which it is composed Its unfairness and absurdity is so ob- may counteract each other. .vious, that it neutralizes and obliterates The second glaring defect is the the effect which otherwise might be asperity and bitterness with which the produced by the brilliant picture which author speaks of those who differ from Mr Bulwer's transcendent subject, as him in political opinion. He in an

a

a

we

especial manner is unceasing in his This is being behind the age. It is attacks upon Mr Mitford : the histo- lagging in arrear of his compeers. rian whose able researches have added The vast changes consequent on the so much to our correct information on French Revolution have blown the the state of the Grecian common. antiquated oblivion of Providence in wealth. Here, too, is more than an Raynal or Voltaire out of the water. impropriety—there is a fault. By dis- The convulsions they had so large a playing such extraordinary bitterness share in creating have completely set on the subject, Mr Bulwer clearly at rest their irreligious dogmas. Here, shows that he feels the weight of the too, Mr Bulwer has fallen into an imMitford fire; the strokes delivered prudence, for his own sake, as much have been so heavy that they have as an error. If he will take the been felt. Nothing could be more trouble to examine the works which impolitic than this, even for the inte- are rising into durable celebrity in rests of the party which he supports. this country, those which are to form It is not by perpetually attacking an the ideas of la jeune Angleterre, he author on trifling points or minor in- will find them all, without being faaccuracies that you are to deaden or natical, religious in their tendency. neutralize the impression he has made for obvious reasons we do not give on mankind: it is by stating facts, the names of living authors; but we and adducing arguments inconsistent admire Mr Bulwer's talents, with his opinions. The maxim, would fain, for the sake of the public, ars est eclare artem," nowhere ap- see them enlisted in the Holy Alliplies more clearly than here: Lingard ance—for the sake of himself, fall in is the model of a skilful controver- more with the rising spirit of the age; sialist, whose whole work, sedulously and we give a word to the wise. devoted to the upholding of the Ca- As an example of the defect of tholic cause through the whole His- which we complain, and to avoid the tory of England, hardly contains a suspicion of injustice in the estimate single angry or envenomed passage we have formed of the tendency in against a Protestant historian. Nr this particular of his writings, we Bulwer would be much the better shall give an extract. Perhaps there of the habits of the bar, before he ven- is no event in the history of the world tures into the arena of political con

which has been so momentous in its flict. It is not by his waspish notes consequences, so vital in its effects, as that the vast influence of Mitford's the repulse of the Persian invasion of Greece on public thought is to be ob- Greece by Xerxes, and none in which viated: their only effect is to diminish the superintending agency of an overthe force of his attempted and other- ruling Providence was so clearly wise able refutation. The future his- evinced. Observe the reflections torian, who is to demolish the influ- which Mr Bulwer deduces from this ence of Colonel Napier's eloquent and memorable event. able, but prejudiced and partial his- " When the deluge of the Persian arms tory of the Peninsular War, will rolled back to its eastern bed, and the hardly once mention his name.

world was once more comparatively at The last and by far the most se- rest, the continent of Greece rose visibly rious objection to Mr Bulwer's work and majestically above the rest of the ciis the complete oblivion which it vilized earth. Afar in the Latian plains, evinces of a superintending Provi- the infant state of Rome was silently and dence, either in dealing out impartial obscurely struggling into strength against retribution to public actions, whether the neighbouring and petty states in which by nations or individuals in this the old Etrurian civilisation was rapidly world, or in deducing from the agen. Germany, yet unredeemed from barbarism,

passing to decay. The genius of Gaul and cy of human virtue or vice, and the lay scarce known, save where colonized by shock of conflicting passions, the

Greeks, in the gloom of its woods and means of progressive improvement.

The pride of Carthage had been We do not say that Mr Bulwer is ir- broken by a signal defeat in Sicily; and religious ; far from it. He may be Gelo, the able and astute tyrant of Syrathe most pious man in existence for

cuse, maintained in a Grecian colony, the aught we know. We say only that splendour of the Grecian name. he ascribes no influence in human af- “ The ambition of Persia, still the great fairs to a superintending agency. monarchy of the world, was permanently

wastes.

« PredošláPokračovať »