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and blood, and all the British and French forces, Lord Wellington and Bonaparte only spectres, we feel that these are the true men, and therefore Don Roderick must be no better than a ghost. It is quite needless, by that time, for the poet to step in and acknowledge bis imposture.
We have fully proved, by a liberal selection of the best passages of the poem, that its execution is often very meritorious. Its chief fault, in the other parts, is the loose and loquacious style of expression. Instead of the terseness and concinnity of a poem, it has all the inflation and verboseness of an harangue. We are pleased indeed to observe, that where Mr. Scott comes out most decidedly in the character of a political pamphleteer, he most clearly forfeits that of a poet.
Our author's diction stands almost as much in need of a glossary, as in any former work. And to do hiin justice, we must allow, that he never creates a difficulty in his text by the use of obsolete and foreign words, but he supplies a most copious explication of it in his notes. The wonder is, bow Homer, and Virgil, and Milton, should have been understood, without any of those useful additaments.
In the management of the stanza, we think Mr. Scott obviously inferior to his countryman Campbell; though his fluency and ease of versification, partly atone for the want of sweetness and finish. His alexandrines are often extremely awkward. We have already noticed one, in which the reader inust have the indulgence to pronounce the word victory' as a monosyllable, to present the line being perfectly disgusting. It is hardly possible that the following, however, can be rendered tolerable, by any such friendly artifice. • They won not Zaragoza, but her children’s bloody tomb. p. 47.
This is properly one of our old fourteens; it has a genuine baliad cadence, and according to modern usage should be printed thus,
They won not Zaragoza, but
Her children's bloody tomb.' · We cannot possibly excuse such a presumptuous innovation as this:
Each voice of fear or triumph, woe or pleasure.' p. 4. If we have not treated this poem with any particular ceremony, it is because we have no great respect for the tendency of it. We have already hinted our objections both to its particular purpose and general character ; but we cannot persuade ourselves to conclude, without being a little more explicit,
: We disapprove of a poem in praise of the war in the peninsula : not from an indifference to the fate of the wretched inhabitants, or the military merit of Lord Wellington, but because the public mind is already sufficiently excited in favour of both, and requires not that they should be adorned, to stimulate its passions,-or consecrated, to justify its excesses,-by the mystical fascination of poetry. Our anxiety for the deliverance of the Spaniards and Portuguese, is not less fervid, than if it only sprung from a fear of Bonaparte. Far from looking on with insensibility while their liberties and rights are trodden down, we should: rejoice to see them emancipated from oppression ; and still hope they may finally escape, not only from the scourge of a foreign tyranny, but from the sceptre of, a domestic despotism.. Our abhorrence of the outrages of Bonaparte is not less deep and solemn, we are sure it is not less honourable and virtuous, than if it were confined within geographical lines, or prescribed by treaties and manifestoes. We do not extenuate perfidy and oppression in Spain because we detest it in Bengal. But the people of England already feel as much interested for the fate of the peninsula, as would be at all reasonable, while the prevailing character of its inhabitants affords so precarious a hope that any exertions in their favour would prevail. Neither is it in the smallest degree necessary for a poet to undertake the trouble, of preparing a wreath for the brows of Lord Wellington. The idolatry to which mankind are excited by their admiration of military skill, is of all others the most extravagant and dangerous. There is no species of success which is scrutinized with so little rigour, or rewarded by such a disproportionate celebrity. The importance of the interests which a victorious chief is supposed to protect, the grandeur of the power he exerts, and the popular passions he gratifies, unite to invest him in the public eye with a splendour the most fascinating and irresistible. It is not a mere newspaper extravagance, which already speaks of Lord" Wellington as beingó idolized'. and 'adored. Far be it from us to depreciate his undoubted talents, or to detract from the importance of services, which however can only be estimated by the event. But the reputation of Lord Wellington is identified with the influence of a party; a party, not the least formidable to the rights and liberties of their country, by no means distinguished for a pacific and economical policy,--but at least suspected, of an arbitrary spirit and ambitious views. A party like this might be enabled, by a train of military success, to obtain an authority not inferior to that of
Marlborough; to infatuate the people, to rule in the parliament, and dictate to the throne. With a periodical journal pretty forward in their cause, with a poet already employed at the Admiralty to celebrate their disastrous battles, and scatter laurels in the path of retreat ; it hardly seems necessary, at least for the public good, that their ascendancy should be aided by Mi. Scott.
The moral tendency of this poem is perhaps worse than the political. We totally disapprove of a poem in celebration of war. The violent passions which are natural to us require no unnatural excitement. The pride, ferocity, and vindictiveness of man, his craving after strong sensations, and his delight in violent exertions, are already but too impetuous for his happiness. To allay, not cxasperate, these dangerous, principles, is the great duty of a poet. It is bis function, to inspire milder sentiments, to present objects of purer desire, and means of more innocent gratification. He is at once to subjugate the animal, while he developes the spiritual faculties. We lament that no influence of this sort is to be found in the poems of Mr. Scott. They are exquisite delineations-of a fierce and licentious age : they captivate the fancy with beautiful scenes, and excite the passions by striking events; but at the same time they reconcile us to the manner's they illustrate, and assimilate us to the characters they describe. The moral sentiment is in strict unison with the subject; and befits a minstrel of the sixteenth, much better than a poet of the nineteenth century. Without adverting to any of the numerous instances that might be cited from his former works, we shall only notice one remarkable passage in the poem before ' us. It is distressing to observe with what coolness-we, might rather say with what satisfaction and delightma British poet can work up a description of cruelties that. make each particular hair to stand on end.' We are persuaded none of our readers can peruse it without
With blade and brand,
But, with the darkness, the Guerilla band
And claimed for blood the retribution due,
And Dawn, when o'er the scene her beams she threw, Midst ruins they had made the spoilers' corpses knew!' pp. 45, 46. Surely our national character is not yet so brutalized, as, to relish a description like this." Surely we are not yet so hardened by border tales, or maddened by political animosity,
as thus to exult over scenes of midnight massacre, thus to gloat, as it were, upon mangled bodies, and revel in buman blood!
Nothing is more difficult than to ascertain the specific value, if we may so express it, of a given portion of popularity. This is a point not to be determined by the quantity, but the quality ; not by the number of editions, but by the taste of readers. If merit were to be decided on the democratic plan, by universal, unbiassed suffrage, and the most numerous class of judges were undeniably the best, no doubt many à caricaturist would take bis place above Raphael, many a maker of glees above Haydn, and many an ijditer of ballads above Milton. The object of poetry, is certainly to please ; but that is the best poetry, which gives the highest, most rational, and most permanent kind of pleasure ; which pleases those who are most conversant in poetry, and whose faculties have been exeroised, and whose taste (in their own opinion at least) improved, by study and cultivation.' We cannot pretend · to ascertain what sort of readers forın the great support of Mr. Scott's celebrity. It would be easy to assert, that they are only the young and ill-educated; and his admirers might reply, with an equal impossibility of proving the fact, that they consisted of all the learned and refined spirits of the age. We think it may be plausibly conjęctured, however, that the poetry which pleases, at first, to the widest extent, is that which is peculiarly adapted to please the lower and larger class of understandings. To gratify. ordinary minds, it is obviously necessary to write to the faculties which are nearly common to all; to represent objects familiar to the senses, to declare those plain obvious truths, to express those customary sentiments, and depict those coarser modifications of the passions, which are at once comprehended and realized by every individual. A poem of higher quality is not at first relished by the multitude, because it wants these essential recommendations. In due time, however, the terms of precedence are settled. The plebeians of the literary common-wealth become weary of their favourite ; his merits having been all perceived at first sight, scarcely invite or endyre examination; his faults are scrutinized and exposed by severer judges, till they become plain to the most indulgent: and those who still resist argument, gradually yield to authority. The better kind of performance has a happier fate. Its beauties reveal themselves, in time, even to the obtuser faculties; the public are gradually taught to understand and admire;
atll the tide even of popular opinion turns, and it is loudly celebrated where it is neither relished, comprehended, nor read. There is more than one sense, in which Mr. Scott is a popular writer ; and though his poetry must always retain a very respeciable rank, it will' be considerably reduced, we think, below its present station, by the inevitable operation of time.
The undue. continuance of its popularity, would be not only discreditable, but injurious to the public. As long as it rages, the classic poets of the language must be in a measure undervalued and neglected; their delicato charms make no impression on minds familiar with his coarseness and barbarism. But what we should most
deprecate and lament, is the transference of the public 1 homage from works of reason, sentiment, and imagination,
to works of fiction ; in short, from poetry to romance. In comparing him with the other poets of the day, he appears not so much of a lower order, as of a different kind. The pleasure we derive from their writings, is essentially distinct. They introduce us to a new region. Instead of being driven back three or four centuries, to contemplate brutal deeds and vulgar passions, we are summoned to a supericr sphere.
Largior hic campos æther, et lumine vestic
VIRG. A deep unutterable pathos, an heroic and magnanimous enthusiasm; a calm and pensive delight in the contemplation of nature, and a softening sympathy with all sentient beings; magnificent abstractions, and inystic dreams; a touching melancholy, a fervidi zeal, an ardent piety, and a melting tenderness; a creation of diversified beauty and dazzling splendor; an acute developement of human character, and a morality the most lofty and sublime; these are some of the elements of thai world of contemporary poetry, for which we gladly abandon all the adventures and superstitions of the border. Even the most exceptionable of the poetry we allude to, will assist the refined and aspiring 'thinker to rise above the vulgarities of life. It may offend him with a certain portion of what is wild, unnatural, and absurd; but will furnish sentiments he must rejoice to imbibe, and excite conceptions the most elevated and transporting. The sphere of his existence will be immeasurably enlarged. The whole expanse of possibility will be laid open to him. Larger views, finer feelings, and mightier faculties, a nobler race of beings,