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Now, servants of a tyrant's word,
The Calliretian maids approach his throne ! • Alashtar,' the Arabian tale, stands next in succession, and favourably as we feel towards its precursors, we are disposed to give it a decided preference over them, both in point of plan and of composition. The story turns on the passion of revenge, the indulgence of which is not, as in modern European cases, the result of a strong and malignant hatred working in a sullen bosom, and ever haunted by a consciousness of guilt, but springs from a generous, though passionate and savage determination to discharge what is deemed a sacred duty at every personal risk, and accompanied with a morbid and self-accusing impatience of every thing which delays the moment of execution. In the notes to this poem, Mr. Knight relates a curious instance of the sense which the Arabs entertain of their duties on this head. 'During our journey in the desert (he says) we were one day waiting under the shade of a rock, till the remainder of our party came up. When they arrived, we observed emotion and disorder in their countenances. We inquired the cause, and, after some hesitation, the Arabs expressed a hope that we should not think the worse of them for not having killed a servant of ours, who, it appeared, had given one of them a blow. The Arab, whom he had struck, had been riding behind him on the same camel, and amusing himself with causing it to play tricks, to the discomfort of the European.'
Upon the principal personage, whose name gives a title to the poem, devolves, according to Arab practice, the bloody office of doing to death' Mohareb, the chief of a neighbouring tribe, who some time before had slain Alashtar's brother. The scene is entirely confined to the desert, and the fond partiality with which the houseless Arab clings to his sandy and sultry home is happily described in the following lines, which, though in fact little more than an expansion of the same beautiful idea in Goldsmith's Traveller, as applied to the Swiss,' derive from their Arab dress a pleasing air of freshness and originality.
• Children of Ishmael! a rugged home
By fate is yours; but let the favour'd race,
Alas! bright scenes are lost on sorrow's eye,
As bounteously the dews of bliss descend
While speeds o'er sands the Arab blest and free,
• She, like Alashtar, mourn’d a brother slain,
But Zora bade her sorrows seem to sleep;
Fix'd at his side would Zora fondly wait,
Or when, in milder sorrow's thoughtful gloom,
Artful, but innocent, her looks that play,
from dissolving his hero in aqua-fortis, or stowing him away in a quicksand, that we are inclined to allow all due consideration to (what our great lexicographer calls) the “sabulous nature of the scene.
But while we deal thus gently with our author in one particular point, and confer upon him that portion of commendation which we think he has fairly merited, we must not conceal our observation of some defects, to which we attach the more importance as they tend to affect the general tone of his composition, and may, perhaps, be less willingly tolerated, as they appear most capable of correction in that modest unassuming style of poetry which he has chosen to adopt. We think, for instance, that Mr. Knight is sometimes too easily contented with the first expression that comes to band; as well as too prone to take up metaphorical forms of speech, which though hacknied and worn down by frequent use, are, originally, of too strong a cast to admit of being employed on light occasions. The Muse would be too much indulged, if, with a free range over the whole region of metaphors, she were not compelled, as the condition of that liberty, to employ them with the most scrupulous propriety.
Mr. Knight must also pardon us if we suspect him of giving way occasionally to a little secret weakness in favour of prettinesses, such as in the east display'd, shone warning blushes'' kind as morning's tear,'—to say nothing of a "dread illumination' to be mistaken, by inattentive observers, for an extension of the starry sphere. The frequent inversion of the verb and substantive may be traced, we suspect, to the same cause.
We could wish that Mr. Knight had been as attentive in marking the shades of difference between individuals of the same moral class, as he has been careful to seize the less delicate distinctions of national peculiarity. Abdallagh and Ilderim, Azza and Elmyra, Mohareb and Alashtar, when considered with respect to each other, have, in our opinion, too many qualities in common to allow of standing out respectively with that degree of boldness which is necessary for the arresting and enchaining of the attention. It may be objected that in less refined stages of society, although the simple passions and dispositions may be more strongly pronounced, and the difference, for example, between the brave and the timid, the impetuous and the gentle, more striking, yet nicer varieties of character calculated to distinguish different individuals of the same general class are hardly to be found. In fact, wherever the modes of life are simple, and the prevailing ideas less intricate, the human character is at one and the same time both less controuled and less modified, and consequently, more prominent in its grand divisions, and less various in the
smaller ones. Our author is welcome to the full advantage of this metaphysical defence; but we shall nevertheless continue to regret the want observable in several parts of his volume, of that particular sort of sustained discrimination, which we have just pointed out, as we are convinced that it involves one of the principal means of exciting pathetic feelings, and attaching interest to fictitious circumstances.
Art. VIII.- Political Essays, with Sketches of Public Charac
ters. By William Hazlitt. London. Svo. pp. 459. THIS writer cloys with a sameness.' He might have owned of,
nearly, all his volume what he owns of one leaf; that it is strange, but not new; and that he has said it all before. - It is seldom, however, that something may not be learned by observing the insects of the moral world as well as those of the animal kingdom, and it is fortunate that they are tempted to exhibit themselves. It would be worth any money to our farmers if the turnip fly would shew itself before it settled on the plant; or to the inhabitants of either India, if the white ants would make their attacks without covered ways. Happily our author has no relation to either of those families; the sphinx atropos, or death's head hawk-moth, a less powerful creature, bears some resemblance to him. Its favourite object is, always, the plunder of a hive, and its sole safeguards in accomplishing its purpose are its startling appearance and disagreeable noise. This process of attack is evidently imitated in the alarming account which the author gives of the properties of the genus to which it is his boast to belong. .“ To be a true Jacobin a man must be a good hater ; but this is the most difficult and the least amiable of all the virtues ; the most trying and the most thankless of all tasks. The love of liberty consists in the hatred of tyrants. The true Jacobin hates the enemies of liberty as they hate liberty, with all his strength and with all his might, and with all his heart and with all his soul. His memory is as long and his will as strong as theirs, though his hands are shorter; he never forgets or forgives an injury done to the people, for tyrants never forgel or forgive one done to themselves. There is no love lost between them. He does not leave them the sole benefit of their old motto, odia in longum jaciens quæ reconderet auctaque promeret. He makes neither peace nor truce with them. His hatred of wrong only ceases with the wrong. The sense of it, and the barefaced assumption of the right to inflict it, deprives him of his rest. It stagnates in his blood--it loads his heart with aspics tongues deadly to venal pens. It settles on his brain-it puts him beside himself.'-p. 167.
This display seems to us to be sufficiently hideous to drive from him even the kindred swarms that, like himself, are on the
wing for mischief. If indeed there was any bond of union amongst these bad things they would threaten us with serious calamities; but a wise providence limits them to paltry mischief, by introducing amongst them a confusion of evil purposes. This is felt, and bitterly felt, by Mr. Hazlitt. Franklin said that he met persons in the world whom he conceived to be already placed in a state of damnation.* Dante mingled with the infernal crew the spirits of some whose bodies still walked the earth; and there is a convulsive agony in the view which this writer takes of the peaceful security of those whom he would pull down, and of the dissolute abandonment of those from whom alone he can hope for alliance, which might induce a belief that the fiction of the poet, and the fancy of the philosopher have some foundation in reality.t
We believe that since we last noticed Mr. Hazlitt, he has manifested great wrath against us; and, as we are not conscious of any growing desire to conceal the unqualified detestation which we have always entertained, and which we still entertain, for the spirit which pervades his volumes, it is probable that the quicksilver of his feelings will stand as much above temperate after he shall have read these pages, as before. How this may be we are not very solicitous to know: we mention his indignation for the purpose only of pointing out, with more effect, the ludicrous egotism which has driven this forlorn drudge of the Examiner into a belief that it is his prerogative to abuse whom he will, and the privilege of all the world to submit in silence: he lays claim to an autocracy of malediction. His delusion upon this point is the nearest approach which we have observed, amongst persons who go at large, to the straw crowns and sceptres of Moorfields. There are few characters in England of distinguished eminence whom he has not slandered; and yet he is thrown into a transport of fury if he is told that he is wrong; if he is reasoned with, laughed at, or reminded of what he is doing and of what he is. We are unable to account for this hallucination in
way posing that Mr. Hunt, who revived the Institution of King Arihur's Round Table, and who seems, at length, to have fought his way to the undisturbed possession of the Throne of Cockney, has erected the ward of Billinsgate into a sort of county palatine, for this his chivalrous' squire; and that the ceremony of investiture has turned the new dignitary's brains. Some instances of the freaks to which we have alluded will be found in our review of the Round Table.
We thought, at one time, of forming a complete list of those
than by sup
• Private Correspondence, vol. i. p. 82.
No. XXXIII. p. 134.
† Page xx, and xxx. note.