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taught them the power of a single word, "rightly placed;" Le Bologne; Olivier; De Cerisy; De la Motte; De Sainte Palaye; De Malleville; Gautier; D'Aire; Moreau; and others. Of these writers, the merits, of course, vary widely. Rousseau holds, we believe, the highest rank. Without coinciding in the inflated eulogy which some critics have bestowed upon himwithout discovering in his works the beautiful disorder (le beau désordre) of Pindar, the graces of Anacreon, or the chaste good sense (la saine raison) of Horace-we admire his enthusiasm and dignity. If his reputation had not been built on a strong foundation, it would have crumbled under the malevolent hand of Voltaire. If ever (says a French writer) any poet was entitled to apply to himself the well-known line
'Est Deus in nobis, agitante calescimus illo,'
it was J. B. Rousseau. That heat has kept his fame alive.
Jusques à quand as establie
Jusques à quand sera mon cœur
Le plaisir qu'ils ne redoublent
En toi gist tout l' espoir de moy:
Jusques à quand, baigné de larmes,
Tu m'écoutes: mon espérance,
If we return for a moment to our own literature, we find the
severe and saturnine genius of Ben Jonson uttering its confession of sin and its prayer for mercy, in accents of touching simpleness and fervour. Jonson had not passed through life without defilement; he had laid his incense upon unworthy altars, and stooped his proud forehead to the vices of the age. But if he had the publican's conscience, he had also the publican's humility. In 1641 appeared, among other poems from his pen, three upon sacred subjects. They are entitled, "To the Holy Trinity," "An Hymn to God the Father," and "An Hymn on the Nativity of Our Saviour." The name of "Underwoods," by which they are distinguished, was selected by their author on account of its analogy to a former collection, which he called "The Forest." These poems appeared under very unfavourable auspices. Whether the poet had contemplated their publication, we may be inclined to doubt; but the spirit of their religious feelings is unexceptionable. In the concluding verses of The Forest" he had poured out the sighs of a penitential heart with unaffected fervour. His learned and warmhearted editor, Mr. Gifford, pronounced the poem, with great justice, an admirable prayer, solemn, pious, and scriptural. Jonson, "like all of us, had his moments of forgetfulness:" moments, when his moral principle lost its uprightness—when the inward eye of thought was dazzled by the tempter, and the ear charmed by the lute of the enchantress. Jonson passed his days in the press and tumult of busy and eager life. In such a crowd the white garments of virtue cannot always escape a stain but the embers of good feeling, though damped, were never extinguished; the flame soon revived, and he then acted up to his own noble declaration, that it was impossible to write a good poem without first being a good man. There is something unusually solemn and touching in the lines in which he confesses his guilt and his weakness:
"Yet dare not I complain, nor wish for death,
With holy Paul, lest it be thought the breath
For weariness of life, not love of Thee."
These Christian thoughts fell from his lips when the shadows of evening were round his bed, and the journey of life was nearly over. In such a season, it is beautiful to watch the daystar rising over the dark edge of the horizon, and to see the waters of time illuminated with a guiding ray as the traveller approaches the haven. That we are indulging no dream of fancy respecting Jonson is sufficiently shown by the few records of his latter days which have been preserved for our instruction. He was frequently visited by the Bishop of Winchester, who,
soon after his death, collected and published the elegies which had been strown up on his hearse. Hacket, Morley, and King were also among his visitors and friends; and we are told by Falkland, that all who were worthy of honour, as Pembroke, Portland, and grave D'Aubigny, crowded to the pillow of expiring genius. We give the hymn to the Trinity :
"O holy, blessed, glorious Trinity
"Myself up to thee, harrow'd, torn, and bruised
For thy acceptance: O, behold me right,
Eternal Father, God, who didst create
Eternal Spirit, God from both proceeding
Increase those acts, O glorious Trinity
Of seeing your face.
The gladdest light dark man can think upon;
One God to see.
My Maker, Saviour, and my Sanctifyer!
Among thy saints elected to abide ;
In these verses we notice an abruptness and want of harmony, which might have been supplied by the correcting hand of the writer. That Jonson possessed consummate skill in the management of lyrical measures, we know from his exquisite Masques. No poet, of the same mental stature, ever displayed more graceful and flexible ease than he has shown in those gay and remarkable productions. He seems to put off his own learned sock, and to warble the wood-notes of Shakspeare. Shall we startle our readers by the confession, that we discover a resemblance in the sacred verses of Jonson to some of the smaller poems of Dante ? Without being very intimately related, they belonged, we think, to the same family of genius. The features of both are stern, reflective, and, to a superficial observer, somewhat repulsive. In sentiment, they were generous, fiery, and overbearing-alike strangers to flattery or intimidation. The hand of Jonson might have wielded a sword upon English ground, as did that of Dante upon the plain of Campidoglio. In poetry and in life, they were complete men. The Muse of each could grasp the spear. The language of Dante is solemn and difficult; it seems to harmonize with the blackness of those sombre forests where imagination revealed to him the secrets of purgatory. Antiquity gave an acccent to the tongue of both; but in a very different sense. Let us glance, for a single moment, at the rise and progress of the illustrious Florentine.
In Germany, at the beginning of the thirteenth century, we find the "Lay of the Nibelungen," an epic romance, whose stories belong to an earlier age, and whose natural simplicity has reminded some of its readers of the legends of Grecian poetry. Italy alone seemed to linger behind in this march of the understanding. A Sicilian, between 1187 and 1193, was probably the first writer of "genuine Italian." Yet from this chaos Dante rose, steering his way through all those gloomy and rude elements of thought, until his path opened upon Paradise. He shook off with his mighty wing the idle visions and fancies that fluttered before his eyes. Instead, as Sismondi has shown, of cold madrigals, sonnets painfully melodious, and allegories harsh as they were unnatural, he presented to the gaze of his astonished readers a new world of imagination, and hewed, out
of hitherto undiscovered mines of poetry, the images of angels. It was about the year 1300 that he began his pilgrimage to the temple of Fame in the company of Virgil. Even a brave heart might have seen upon its gates the same inscription that startled the eyes in the Inferno. What hope could there be for the success of such an adventure? Nevertheless he triumphed. The golden bough of Genius has not only conducted the poet through the perils of five hundred years, but has obtained for him the society, upon earth, of the wisest and greatest of men; and Criticism, even in her sternest mood, is always willing to recognise its sanctity and its power. The loiterer along every little stream of fame receives him with gladness:
Ille admirans venerabile donum
Fatalis virgæ, longo post tempore visum.
Whatever analogy may be traced between the intellectual powers of Dante and Jonson, the character of their productions scarcely admits of comparison. Sir Philip Sidney said, that the first writers who taught the language of Italy "to aspire to be a treasure of science, were the poets Dante, Bocacio, and Petrarch." The great Florentine had not only to build and to design his temple, but to dig for the materials, and to smooth and adapt them to his purpose. Our own language, on the contrary, had been enriched by the most liberal contributions of fancy and learning, and was vivid with beauty, and glowing with the blood of life. The rust of antiquity, which we see in Jonson, was the produce of labour.
The likeness of Jonson to Dante is closer, in our judgment, than that which criticism is accustomed to discover in the features of Milton. The genius of our immortal poet was more joyous, more sanguine, and in an artistical sense more voluptuous, than Dante's. He seems to have reposed with livelier pleasure in the gardens of Ariosto than in the Eden of Dante. His commentators have not discovered many imitations of the Italian Homer. Mr. Hallam says, that he was not the favourite poet of the south during Milton's residence in Italy. Perhaps this circumstance is not very important; for the popularity or fame of a writer would not be likely to influence a mind like Milton's: his taste rather led him among the fantastic creations of Latin fiction, and he read the "Metamorphoses" oftener than the "Eneid." Dante possessed great imagination and little fancy; Milton united both. Compare the "Paradise" of the first with the "Heaven" of the second. Light, music, and motion, are the elements of delight in the Comedia; Dante painted that scenery of bliss with the clear pencil of Raphael; Milton with