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Pictoribus atque poëtis Quidlibet audendi semper fuit æqua potestas.' * Such-and surely never was it better applied—is the author's motto. Leaving therefore all his incongruities and absurdities to himself, and admitting his right, as a poet, to the possession of them from time immemorial, let us follow him to their ap. plication in the twelve books of which this poem consists. . ,
The first opens with a rhapsodic address to the Deity, the soul of the world, the creator of the universe. Not satisfied with this apostrophe, the poet next addresses his own imagination; and, lastly, the following female power; but whether a, mother, a sister, a wife, or a mistress, is an ænigma which we shall not stay to resolve.
O thou! who didst on my account embellish these groves, tender faithful friend! receive the homage of my song! To whom but to thee should I dedicate it? Thou, after the Eternal, art the being who chiefly presents itself to my soul, and who approaches most nearly to his image! Beneficent angel ! thou disrobedst thyself of thy divine ornaments, thou assumedst a human figure, to accompany and sustain me in the toilsome path of life; but thy celestial origin pierced through this perishable investiture. Why hast thou abandoned me ere I had reached my allotted grave? Why, expanding thy luminous wings, hast thou so soon resumed thy flight towards the mansions of heaven?
We are now abruptly introduced into the temple or palace of the Almighty-the soul and mover of the universe : it is fixed in the centre of existence, and is delineated in more brilliant words than ideas. He is surrounded with an infinite variety of good and benevolent Genii; but what rights the Genius of Ennui has to a place among them—the author not having presented us with any abstract of his title from the herald's archives--we cannot undertake to determine. The Eternal addresses them upon the extent of his power and be. nevolence, and the infinite variety of beauties and beatitudes to which he has made it subservient; and particularly respecting the nature of man, the purity of the human soul, and the evils it encounters from its union with matter. During this address, the Genius of Order arrives in extreme haste, to announce that the Dæmon of Evil had broken from the place of confinement allotted to him, had taken arms against the Almighty, and that the universe was in danger.
Book II delineates the palace or temple of the Malignant Dæmon, which is situated in central darkness, surrounded by Chaos, Annihilation, Death, War, Pestilence, Famine, De
Pieter Genius of "Evil had brokarms agai
spair, and a variety of similar powers that constitute his tre-
ohnehich systems have
destroyed. Having represented the universe, the earth, and the elementary atoms, the primordia rerum of which it consists, as actual existences,-into which last all compound bodies are resolved, and which themselves can never be annihilated, —we were not a little surprised to find our poet asserting, in this book, that it is Imagination alone ' who has created the centre of centres of the celestial system, the lever which supports the earth, the pre-existent germs, the monads of which all beings are composed, the vortices in which the different planets perform their revolutions, and the powers which sustain them.' Our own imagination, we confess, is not competent to reconcile ideas so incongruous and opposite as are here presented; nor to conceive how that which is imaginary alone can have any actual, much less any necessarily eternal, existence.
The reader may perhaps wonder in what manner an all-powerful and benevolent being could suffer such universal devastation and misery to take place. In Book V our poet endeavours to account for this circumstance, by relating that the Dæmon of Evil, after having engaged the divinities of Fire and Water to espouse his cause, hastened to the fantastic palace of Chance, whom he next, in like manner, persuades that all things are the work of his capricious will, and excites to fly towards the temple of the Eternal, and boldly to claim the homage due to his own supremacy of power. The Eternal hears him calmly as a warrior menaced by an impotent rival;' and, in his reply, observes, that the Genius of Chance, so far from being able to create the universe, is not competent even to make a copy of any part of it, and can form no conjecture of the laws by which it is governed. Chance, in vindication of his power, attempts to imitate several distinct portions of the universe ; but all is outrage and disorder : he can seldom advance beyond the existence of chaos; and, when he does, every thing he engender3 is so hideous, incoherent, and monstrous, that he is ashamed of his exertions; "he is frightened at the creation he has produced; flies from the Eternal with speed; and leaves him the trouble of replunging into annihilation the fruits of his ridiculous attempts. We can have no objection to the contrast which is here drawn between the wise and benevolent operations of the Eternal Intelligence, and the absurd attempts and final confusion of the fantastic Genius of Chance; but it does not tell much in favour either of the genius of our poet, or the necessary omniscience and omnipotence of the being whose praises he pretends to celebrate, to intimate that he was so much occupied with this extraordiary parley between himself and the power of Chance, that he either did not know or could not prevent the ruin which the Malignant Dæmon was in the mean while heaping upon earth and his favourite race of man: yet this is the reason assigned why the Dæmon of Evil was able
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thus far to accomplish his diabolic purposes of devastation without any opposition or impediment. "In Book VI, howa ever, the Supreme Intelligence interferes, supplicated by Nature, who appears before him in melancholy mood; he represses the insurrection of the apostate powers, limits the influence both of the divinities of Fire and Water, and elicits, from the disorder introduced, additional varieties of beauty, as well in the subterraneous as the superficial parts of the globe. Book VII delineates the existence of the golden age-an epoch of universal happiness and harmony,—with occasional contrasts between it and the miseries of the late war. In Book VIII, our poet, mounted on the wings of Imagination, again descends into the infernal regions ; beholds the palace of Death, the divinity of Annihilation, surrounded by the powers of Despair, Remorse, Repentance, Ignorance, Credulity, and many other monsters and furies injurious to the joys of life, whoʻin different ways are perpetually punishing the unhappy victims who are dragged by Death from existence, and placed beneath their several jurisdictions. Here also many of the miseries of the French revolution are prospectively unfolded. The Genius of Evil arrives, and upbraids Death for not having assisted him in the destruction of mankind with all the powers of which he is possessed ; and shortly quits the infernal cave in haste, resolved to seek revenge from himself: he visits the earth, and lets loose among mankind the various passions and sensations of Ennui, Envy, Disgust; Inconstancy, Idleness, Love, and all the busy tribe of insatiable desires. Book IX, in a sort of parody upon the history of Cain and Abel,--for our author, with all his contempt for revealed religion, is obliged to draw largely from this fountain,-gives us his new and improved account of the origin of moral evil. Tubal and Adul are brothers, each of them married, and possessed of all domestic felicity can bestow in the persons of Selima and Zulia. The strongest and purest affection at first subsists between the brothers themselves; and Tubal rejoices as largely in the domestic and unembittered bliss of Adul as in his own: but, stimulated by the Genius of Destruction, he himself at length conceives an impure desire for the beautiful Zulma: this he long represses ; but at length, urged on by madness and despair, he kills his brother, and commits a rape on Zulma his sister-in-law. Book X pursues the same subject. The incestuous murderer flies from the scene of his crimes into the desert, the perpetual prey of the severest anguish and remorse. The tender and virtuous Selima does not desert him; she accompanies him with her children, and, by her assiduous kindness and entreaties, at length assuages the misery of his mind, and restores him to tranquillity. But, torn as his bosom had been by contending
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and violent passions, the pure and perpetual calm of Nature can please him no longer; day after day wears the same unvarying appearance, and he pants for a constant change of scenery, an uninterrupted series of occupation. Nature applies in his behalf to the throne of the Eternal, who, acceding to his wishes, changes the direction of the poles, and introduces the succession of seasons; hereby furnishing him with unceasing employment, and compelling him to support himself and family by the sweat of his brow. Tubal avails himself of the assistance of his children; he cultivates the ground; in doing which, he accidentally discovers a piece of metal that had been fused by some prior volcano, and thrown down from the mountains : and the invention of metallic instruments is dated from this epoch. Disgust and her retinue are in consequence driven back to hell, chased from earth by Labour and Industry. The Genius of Destruction resolves to exert himself again : and now, in Book XI, a new family of passions are armed to destroy the recommencing happiness of unfortunate man. These consist of Pleasure, War, Prejudice, Vengeance, ride, Selfishness, Superstition, Fanaticism, Atheism, Luxury, Avarice, the Thirst of Glory, which are all marshaled in dreadful array, and sent forth to exert their various powers among the human race, and to render them as wretched as possible. Filled with the dreadful prospect of utter destruction, Nature again, in Book XII, applies to the throne of the Eternal, and represents the new calamities with which mankind are menaced. The Omnipotent calms her inquietudes, by assuring her that, in every instance, his antagonists shall operate an effect in complete opposition to what they intend; for that he has pre-ordained it, that good shall be perpetually the offspring of evil. To assist his views and intentions, and more completely defeat the purposes of the Dæmon of Destruction, he sends forth, at the same time, a different family from his celestial temple, capable of arming mankind against all the miseries they may be called upon to sustain. These consist of Wisdom, Hope, Indifference, (l'heureuse Insouciance) here strangely misnominated the daughter of Courage and Resignation, Forgetfulness of Evils, Joy, Illusion (aimable Illusion), Benevolence, Reason (the Mother of Justice and Truth), Religion, and several others.
Such is the outline of the present poem, in which the writer has assuredly displayed more fancy than fact, more imagination than judgement. His language, however, is brilliant, and his ideas, in many instances, happily conveyed. We wish he had postponed his públication till the present, instead of the past year; he would not then have been so much ashamed, as he appears to have been, of avowing the truth of revealed religion: his poem, perhaps, on the contrary, would have been con