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habits of superficial acquirement, and contented ignorance, which it was short-sighted enough to encourage, if not to create, in order to serve its own temporary purposes among the rising generation of Scotland.
* One would imagine, however that these young whigs might have begun, long ere this time, to suspect somewhat of their own situation. They must be quite aware, that they have never writ. ten a single page in the Edinburgh Review, or that, if they have So,
their pages were uniformly looked upon as the mere lumber of the book; contrasting too, their own unproductive petulence, with the laborious and fruitful early years of those whom they worship, and in whose walk they would fain be supposed to be following it is difficult to understand how they happen to keep themselves so free from the qualms of conscious imbecility. Perhaps, after all, they are au fond less conceited than they appear to be; but certainly, to judge from externals, there never was a more selfsatisfied crew of young ignoramuses. After being let a little into their real character and attainments, I cannot say but that I derived a considerable degree of amusement from the contemplation of their manners. As for their talk, it is such utter drivelling, the moment they leave their text-books, (the moment they give over quoting,) that I must own I found no great entertainment in it. It is a pity to see a fine country, like Scotland, a country so rich in recollections of glorious antiquity, so rich in the monuments of genius, at this moment adorned with not a few full-grown living trees of immortal fruit-it is a pity to see such a country so devoid of promise for the future harvest. It is a pity to see her soil wasting on the nurture of this unproductive pestilential underwood, juices which, under better direction, might give breadth to the oak, and elevation to the pine.'
Art. XI.-Mazeppa and Don Juan. "HESE two poems, so confidently attributed to the pen of lord
Byron, have attracted much less attention in this country than in Great Britain. They have, indeed, been republished here, and have found numerous readers, as will ever be the case with any production of that bard, whose earlier inspirations excited among us such enthusiastic applause. But Mazeppa was speedily dismissed with indifference from public attention, and Don Juan survives in our minds, chiefly by means of the strong disapprobation which its indelicacy and 'impiety incurred. It is, indeed, a circumstance most auspicious to the cause of our national literature, and creditable to our national taste, that, although our reading public, endure much of the insipidity with which our literary caterers on the other side of the Atlantic supply us, and re-print many of the dullest and most evanescent novelties of the British press; yet the true character of such works is soon discovered, and
they quickly sink into deserved insignificance-while none but volumes of genuine, sterling merit, attain to the distinction of a second edition; and neither the charms of wit, nor the celebrity of a favourite author, can recommend works of impure or immoral sentiment to any degree of lasting esteem. Thus the spell of lord Byron's name could not make the Vampire tolerable, nor Mazeppa popular, nor obtain forgiveness for the offensiveness of Don Juan.
It is curious, therefore, to observe the contradictory observations of the British critics upon the two last.-We subjoin an epitome of some of them.
1. The London Literary Gazetté, after expressing a decided opinion that lord Byron is the author of Don Juan, calls that poem this witty, if a little licentious, and delightful, if not very moral, production;' and concludes the review, which comprehends copious excerpta, both of the most exceptionable and the most innocent passages, with declaring, though we cannot approve of every part, we have been much delighted with the whole.'
2. The Electric Review, calls Don Juan, poetry which it is impossible to read without admiration; yet, which it is equally impossible to admire, without losing some degree of self-respect; such as no brother could read aloud to his sister, no husband to his wife; poetry, in which the deliberate purpose of the author is to corrupt, by inflaming the mind, to seduce to the love of evil, which he has himself chosen as his good,' &c.
* The poet's pathos,' it is afterwards said, 'is but the sentimentalism of the drunkard between his cups, or the relenting softness of the courtezan, who, the next moment, resumes the bad boldness of her degraded character. With such a man, who would wish either to laugh or to weep? And yet, who that reads him can refrain alternately from either.'
Of Mazeppa, it is only remarked, that it is less vigorously written than most of his lordship's productions, and at the commencement, very slowly gains upon the reader's interest. It may, however, be read without much offence, and it will amply repay perusal.
3. The Monthly Review Enlarged, commences like the rest, with a page or two of abstract speculation on poetry in general, quite as applicable to any other poet, or any other poems; and finally, coming down to the subject, observes the story of Mazeppa possesses the novelty of a lively vein, introduced into the octo-syllabic measure, which was before sacred to the author's dreadful heroes, but it is certainly not one of his happiest efforts, although it contains some good description of Siberian scenery.'
• As the basis of this narrative, víz, a love-intrigue, is in conformity with lord Byron's favourite contemplations, so the horrors of the result are congenial to the general nature of his pictures. Something new, however, is certainly presented in this incident, together with the descriptions and feelings to which it gives rise;
and in these particulars, the poem has its chief, and perhaps its only merit.'
Don Juan is called ' a poem which has also such demerits, that neither his lordship, nor his usual publisher, has chosen to acknowledge it: but which, if originality and variety be the surest test of genius, has certainly the highest title to it; and which, we think, would have puzzled Aristotle with all his strength of poetics to explain, have animated Longinus with some of its passages, have delighted Aristophanes, and have choked Anacreon with joy, instead of with a grape. We inight almost imagine that the ambi. tion had seized the author to please and to displease the world at the same time; but we can scarcely think that he deserves the fate of the old man and his son and the ass, in the fable, or that he will please nobody, how strongly soever we may condemn the more than poetic license of his muse. He has here exhibited that wonderful versatility of style and thought, which appear almost incompatible within the scope of a single subject; and the familiar and the sentimental, the witty and the sublime, the sarcastic and the pathetic, the gloomy and the droll, are all touched with so happy an art, and mingled together with such a power of union, yet such a discrimination of style, that a perusal of the poem appears more like a pleasing and ludicrous dream, than the sober feeling of reality. It is certainly one of the strangest, though not the best of dreams; and it is much to be wished that the author, before he lay down to sleep had invoked, like Shakspeare's Lysander, some good angel to protect him against the wicked spirit of slumbers. We hope, however, that his readers have learnt to admire his genius without being in danger from its influence; and we must not be surprised if a poet will not always write to instruct as well as to please us. Still we must explicitly condemn and reprobate various passages and expressions in the poem, which we shall not insult the understanding, the taste, or the freling of our readers by pointing out; endeavouring rather, like artful chemists, to extract an essence from the mass, which, resembling the honey from poisonous flowers, may yet be sweet and pure.'
In conclusion. Voluptuous, then, as is his delineation of the delight which the sex confer on us in this world, and powerful as are the varied attractions of his pen, it requires some exertion to withdraw ourselves from his spell, and to bestow merited censure on all the abuses which he commits, both as a painter and as a writer. We must, however, close his volume; and again we would remind him that these are not the deeds of which the recollection will enable him to say, on his death-bed, “ Nec me vixisse pænitet, quoniam ita vixi ut me non frustrà natum existimem."
4. The Gentleman's Magazine. Italy, with all its charms of blue lakes and eternal sunshine, does not abound in poets, and it should seem as if other poets than its own, felt the influence of that land of silk and slavery. Lord Byron's vigorous and original
style has certainly received no obvious improvement since his residence on the shores of the Mediterranean, and his present poem forms no exception to the general rank of his Italian efforts. But he is a poetic genius; indolence may enfeeble his powers, as it does those of all men, but it cannot extinguish them; carelessness of fame, or contempt of criticism may debase his poetry by commonplace allusion, or negligent arrangement, but the true fire still burns, and if it be only exposed to the air for a moment, it flames out and vindicates its early brilliancy. Mazeppa is to us the least interesting of the noble bard's works.'
5. The European Magazine, speaking of Don Juan; “It is a lively, witty, and amusing work; though the laxity of morals it betrays, and the occasional sneers at religion, detract considerably from its respectability. On the whole, however, we cannot highly compliment his lordship upon this addition to his works, nor conceive it at all caloulated to increase that adnjiration of his talents his prior works have so justly obtained for him.
• In closing this hasty and imperfect notice, we must apologize to our readers for any incorrectness that may appear. Of the poem itself, we have only to say—that, notwithstanding its easy versification, and undoubted merit as to composition, it presents a pru. riency of thought and language, that it would have been better to repress than indulge. Nothing is so easy as to give licentiousness an inviting aspect—and when genius, whose inspired strains should take a nobler range, condescends to revel in its bosom-however lofty it may be--however superior in the eyes of the world, it disgraces itself by prostituting the richest gift of God to man.'
6. The Monthly Magazine, (sir Richard Philips's.) 'A poem, of which two cantos have been published within the month, under the title of Don Juan, is considered to be from the pen of lord Byron; and it certainly indicates the powers of the same genius that produced Childe Harold and Beppo. Great, however, as its literary merits undoubtedly are, we fear that, in justice, its moral qualities must be rated very low. But lord Byron does not affect to be a moral writer; on the contrary, he seems to have a wish to be thought otherwise; and it is evident from all his works, that, to the delight which he himself takes in the exercise of his own impressive talents, we are chiefly indebted for the various effusions of his superb poetry. Don Juan is incomplete; the author intends to construct a large poem, and we have no doubt will produce,
if he perseveres, one of the finest epics in a gay spirit, that has enriched any language. The story is founded on the adventures of the dramatic hero of the same name, and is managed with astonishing ease and libertine gayety. The flexibility of the English language was never exhibited so perfectly before; in pliability, it now appears equal to the cartilaginous suppleness of the Italian, and, in agility, turns all the skipping graces of the French into shrugs and dislocations.
We have now to notice an acknowledged work of lord Byron, of a more serious character than Don Juan, Mazeppa, which is yery like other works of this noble poet, and, in our opinion, not less original than the finest of them. The same intense thinking pervades it; the same igneous touches of a rapt and fiery spirit, sparkle and shine in every part; it is also marked with the same carelesness of moral consequences, provided moral emotion is excited; and it interests us in despite of the objection which a priori we perhaps might have made to the choice of the story. But it is the glory of lord Byron's muse, to compel us to sympathize with a class of persons, with whom we should be ashamed to acknowledge any communion of mind; in contempt of all our pharasaical affectations of propriety and decorum, he lays hold of us as it were with a dreadful hand, and compelling us to look inward upon the secrets of our own hearts, shows one by one, shaking us with dread while he does so, the germs within ourselves of each of those libertine frailties on which he so delights to expatiate, The object of the poet seems to have been, to delineate that vivid impression which the casual observation of trivial things makes, in moments of high intellectual excitement, when our senses acquire a sort of instantaneous power of snatching images that are never, by any change of circumstances, afterwards removed from the memory. Mazeppa, for an intrigue with a lady, is tied naked on the back of a wild horse, which bears him furiously away to the desert; and, if all that is fine in the poem, is not contained in the description of this flight, all that original is; and it is, in our opinion, the most skilful and original composition of its kind in English poetry.”
7. The British Review. • Of a poem (Don Juan,) so flagitious that no bookseller has been willing to take upon himself the publication, though most of them disgrace themselves by selling it, what can the critic say? His praise or censure ought to found itself on examples, produced from the work itself. For praise, as far as regards the poetry, many passages might be exhibited; for condemnation, as far as regards the morality, all; but none for either purpose can be produced, without insult to the ear of decency, and vexation to the heart that feels for domestic or national happiness.'
8. Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. "If lord Byron be capable of receiving any pleasure from the interest his contemporaries and countrymen take in him and his muse, the eagerness of the reception which this little tale has met with, must afford abundantly such gratification. In truth, the public admiration for this remarkable man, has been carried to such an extreme, that to suspect the possibility of a failure in any thing he attempts, is a thing altogether out of the question. Of our other great authors, even the greatest, are not exempted from the workings of the commonplace critical mania so entirely as lord Byron is. We doubt very much whether there ever was any popularity so extensive as his,