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This is the false gallop of criticism-it is not pointing out to an author any reasonable object to be attained; but insidiously hinting at some unknown point of excellence, with whose bearings we doubtless are acquainted, though we kindly leave the poet to find them out as he can. In this we see neither wit nor wisdom: and shame on our craft if this finesse be its excellence! In judging of every human production, we can only estimate how far it exceeds or falls short of the common exertions of humanity; and it shews equal ignorance and injustice to attempt reducing it to the imaginary standard of some beau ideal, of which neither the author nor the critic has any distinct or accurate perception.
We have already noticed the singular stile of versification employed in this poem, which resembles the Pindarics of the seventeenth century. In the construction and return of his language, and even of his modulations, we observe a marked imitation of Milton, and there are passages in which the sense also approaches very nearly to that of our great classic. The flight of Arvalan, when
'Thrice through the vulnerable shade
The Glendoveer impels the griding blade, &c.'
inevitably recals the griding sword of Michael. The beautiful retreat of the celestial inhabitants from the profaned Swerga, reminded us of the secession of the Hamadryads in the hymn to the Nativity. But Mr. Southey, though we can discern that Milton is his favourite poet, is in no respect a servile imitator of his sublime model. His picture of the infernal regions may stand comparison with any poetic vision of those penal fires, from the days of Homer to those of Klopstock. The description hovers between that of Dante and Milton; not exhibiting the tedious particularity of the former, yet more detailed than that of the latter. The approach of the mortals to Padalon seems to us equal in grandeur to any passage which we ever perused. We will quote a few lines and close our criticism, though our subject is far from being exhausted.
'Far other light than that of day there shone
Upon the travellers entering Padalon.
They, too, in darkness entered on their way,
A glow, as of a fiery furnace light,
A thing of comfort, and the sight, dismay'd,
Its massive walls arose, and overhead
Arch'd the long passage; onward as they ride,
The World of Woe before them, opening wide.
Girding the realms of Padalon around.
Sea without bound;
For neither mortal, nor immortal sight,
Could pierce across through that intensest light.' pp. 240, 241.
The notes contain a profusion of eastern learning, and the massive blocks which Mr. Southey has selected as specimens of Bramanical poetry and mythology, give us at once an idea of the immense quarries, in which the author must have laboured, and of the taste, skill, aud labour necessary to fashion such unwieldy materials into the beautiful forms which they exhibit in the text.
Every theme, however pleasing, has its bounds, and we must bid farewell to Mr. Southey, grateful for the pleasure afforded us. We can_presage_nothing as to the popularity of the present poem. Its faults lie on the surface, and are of a kind obnoxious to sarcasm and malicious ridicule. But its beauties are infinite, and it possesses that high qualification for popularity, the power of exciting a painful and sustained interest. There are still, surely, among us those who will tolerate the excentricities of genius, in consideration of its lofty properties-properties, which distinguish all the works of the poet; but which shine forth with transcendant lustre, in the Curse of Kehama.
Before we quit the poem, we are bound to notice the novel and beautiful manner in which it is printed. In general a page of poetry is displeasing to fastidious eyes, from the irregular terminations of the lines; this deformity is not only obviated, but a remarkable elegance in the typographic art is introduced in its stead. The centre of every verse is so placed, as to preserve an equal breadth of margin on each side, and to give the page a kind of lapidary appearance, which is singularly striking and agreeable, even before the cause of it is discovered. We hope that every 'wire wove, hot pressed' poem, composed upon this model, will be printed with the same attention to picturesque beauty, as the Curse of Kehama, which has led the way to the only improvement of which the art of printing, in its present advanced state, is, perhaps, susceptible.
ART. III. Brief Remarks on the Character and Composition of the Russian Army, and a Sketch of the Campaigns in Poland in the Years 1806 and 1807. 4to. pp. xxviii. 276. London. Egerton.
HERE is not a more certain prognostic of the downfall of a nation, than a conviction on the part of the government and the people, that their utmost efforts are inadequate to resist the enemy with whom they may be engaged in war. There is something in this feeling which palsies every nerve, and produces an effect upon a nation, which may be said to resemble the languor of a confirmed melancholy, operating upon individuals. It oppresses those whom it attacks with a listless debility, and whilst the power of the disorder becomes gradually more decided, and its cure more remote, it leaves its unfortunate victims to sink beneath their fate, without effort and without hope.
It is therefore with great regret, and not without some alarm, that we observe in any part of this country a tendency to this disorder; and we consider as no equivocal symptom of its approach, a disposition to represent every extensive application of the great military resources of these islands, as utterly vain and ineffectual. We confess that it has given us peculiar pain to remark, that this doctrine (which appears pregnant with fatal consequences) has been propagated by persons who, from their situation, character, and talents, have considerable weight in the country; and who might, if they thought fit, excite spirit and vigour in the same degree as they now create despondency and fear. They do not, it is true, extend their doubts of the ability of this country to contend with France, to our maritime means; but they entertain such an opinion of the supereminent military genius of Buonaparte, and of the overwhelming strength of the military resources of France, as to look upon the British army (the bravest and the finest undoubtedly in the world) as fit only to wage a petty colonial war, or to wait in trembling apprehension at home for the moment when the enemy, having consolidated all his means and collected all his might, shall attempt to number the British empire amongst his dependent provinces. For ourselves, we confess that these maxims are by no means congenial to our feelings, or consistent with our notions of British policy. We cannot very readily understand what benefit, and particularly what security, is to follow from a mode of conducting a war purely and systematically defensive. In the operations of an individual campaign, such a mode of warfare may be prudent and advantageous; but it appears to us that the adoption of it, as a fixed principle, would give to the enemy every advantage
which he could desire, and deprive ourselves of every chance of terminating hostilities with safety or honour. Far from considering the state of Europe at the present moment as one which calls upon us to abandon all idea of vigorously resisting Buonaparte upon the continent, we see in the struggles which have ennobled some, and in the reverses which have overturned others of the continental powers, an additional motive for energy and perseverance on our own part: and from an attentive examination of the great military events of the last eighteen years, we are persuaded that by a manly and honest resistance, even the genius of Buonaparte may be foiled, and the spell of French invincibility dissolved.
It is on these accounts that we view with pleasure the work before us; and we think that Sir Robert Wilson has rendered an eminent service to his country, to Europe, and the world, by exhibiting an authentic narrative of the campaigns in Poland, and by thus. assisting in tearing away the mask with which exaggeration on the one hand, and pusillanimity on the other, have disguised much of the true character of Buonaparte's strength. That Sir Robert Wilson was well qualified to give these details to the public cannot be doubted, whether we consider the talents which he is known to possess, or the opportunities which he enjoyed of witnessing what he describes. The motives too which he states as having urged him to this undertaking, are highly creditable to his feelings; and he very naturally represents them to have been awakened 'by the perusal of a French extra-official narrative of the campaigns of 1806 and 1807, and by a late British publication on the character, customs, and manners of Russia, with a Review of that work.'-With regard to the two latter publications, we entirely concur with Sir Robert Wilson in the view which he entertains of their tendency, and of the injudicious tone of asperity in which they are expressed-a tone which many circumstances recorded in the book itself, pointed out by Sir Robert Wilson, render not only imprudent, but unjustifiable. In fact, we are not without suspicion, that if our travellers do not experience in Russia that attention and hospitality to which they conceive themselves entitled, the Russians alone are not to blame.— We assert, however, in common with Sir Robert Wilson, (and we have no unsubstantial grounds for the assertion,) that the charge brought against Russia is totally unfounded; and we could add many names to the list which he has given of those to whom he could refer for a confirmation of his opinion. We do not indeed pretend to say that there are no defects in the Russian character; but we are disposed to make great allowances in favour of a people, who little more than a century ago were hardly to be considered as forming part of the European commonwealth, and whose comparative backwardness in many points of civilization, may rather be
attributed to the general slowness with which improvement advances, than to any insuperable obstacles arising from the native character of those amongst whom its influence is extended. Be this however as it may, we think with Sir Robert Wilson, that the interests of Russia and of England are inseparably united;' and we should consider it almost miraculous if the late selection of Bernadotte to be Crown Prince of Sweden, and the extension of the French empire to the Hanse Towns, did not excite a degree of jealousy between Russia and France, which may, at no remote period, be attended with very important consequences.
Looking therefore to the prospect of a return of that harmony which formerly subsisted between England and Russia, we are happy to deduce from the work before us the following inferences: first, that experience will have taught Russia those causes of her former failure which depended upon herself; and, secondly, that with the benefit of that experience, she may acquire the means of contending successfully with France. It is not for us to say how soon she may become sensible of the impolicy and danger of her present union with that power, or how soon (supposing that sense of danger to be created) she may feel herself in a condition to break the bonds by which she is at present fettered. We cannot but admit that if the marriage of Buonaparte with a Princess of Austria should give him such a commanding influence in the Cabinet of Vienna, as to compel that power to active co-operation with France against Russia, the difficulties of the latter country would be very materially increased. But the experience of all history teaches us, that the connexions which such marriages form between States, naturally jealous of each other, are frail and fleeting. Can we suppose that Austria will not look with increasing anxiety to the recovery of those portions of her territory which have been wrested from her, and which, from their position and internal resources, are, in a commercial, political, and military sense, of such vast importance to the prosperity and strength of the Austrian empire? Nothing which she can acquire on the side of Turkey or of Poland, can, as it strikes us, compensate, in point of feeling and interest, for the loss of the Venetian States; for the dismemberment of her hereditary dominions on the side of Carinthia and Carniola; and, above all, for the sacrifice of the Tyrol, that gem in the Austrian crown, torn from her after a struggle, which, whilst it excited the admiration, and kindled the enthusiasm of surrounding nations, must have taught Austria herself the intrinsic value of so inestimable a possession. She may indeed be indignant at the conduct of Russia in the war of 1809; but she will recollect that the hostilities of that power were languid and evidently reluctant; and although at the peace of Vienna she was compelled to aban