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how thinly this country is peopled in comparison with any other in an equal state of advancement, nor repeat, how large a portion of those wide spaces which separate our principal settlements from each other, is covered with magnificent forests. The traveller, who can relish the beauties of these splendid collections of vegetable wonders, can have few intervals of idleness or weariness.
Yet however valuable we may consider a taste for these prominent beauties of our own scenery, merely as a neverfailing source of occupation and enjoyment, there are still other reasons of the highest moment, why such a taste should be anxiously cherished; we mean as one of the principal sources of an ardent and deep-felt patriotism. We trust that our country bas, in the view of all of us, other qualities than the beauties of her natural scenery, to recommend her to her proper rank in our estimation. There is in her institutions, political, intellectual, and religious, more than enough to justify us in the preference which we give to our native land over all others. But patriotism, wherever it has existed in a high degree, has been, we apprehend, a sentiment, as well as a principle, and is something more than a cold feeling of preference. It is in truth an enotion of a complex character, and if we would cherish towards our country an enthusiastic attachment, we should not suffer ourselves to be blind to those charms, whether of nature or of art, which may recommend her to our fancy, as well as our sober judgment. Why should not the mind of an American think upon those majestic forests, whose beauties are commemorated throughout the civilized world, with something of the feeling which stirs in the bosoms respectively of a patriotic Frenchman or Englishman, when their thoughts revert to the vine-covered hills and gay regions of France, or the spreading oaks and verdant lawns of merry England ?
It is truly gratifying to reflect on the progress which has been made within a very few years, in the study and developement of the internal resources of this country. In former times, the political condition of Europe, and the embarrassments, in which we were involved by the conduct of the leading belligerents, formed not only the predominant, but the sole topics of deep public interest. Little time or thought could be spared, little at any rate was spared, for the examination and improvement of our internal condition. What, for instance, had been done for the advancement of our agriculture and manufactures; and what was known of our gold regions, our coal mines, or our quarries? Such was the state of things from the very foundation of our national government to the signing of the treaty of Ghent. It is one of the chief national blessings which have resulted from our present peaceful condition, that we have been enabled and induced 10 turn our thoughts inward ; that the vast natural riches of our land are no longer trodden under foot without the slightest investigation, nor its majestic and beautiful scenery passed by with a heedless glance.
Whether we regard this spirit of investigation merely as political economists, or as moralists and patriots, whether we look to its effects on the wealth or on the happiness of our community, we are sure that to cultivate and to cherish it must be regarded as a sacred duty.
ART. III. -1. Euvres complètes de C. DELAVIGNE.
Bruxelles. 2. Chansons de BÉRANGER. Bruxelles. 3. Euvres d' ALPHONSE DE LAMARTINE. Paris. 4. Harmonies Poétiques et Religieuses, par A. DE LAMAR
The difference between the French and English schools of poetry is certainly much greater, than can be accounted for by the mere influence of national peculiarities. The romantic spirit eminently pervades English literature ; its luxuriance of coloring, its marvellous union of things apparently inconsistent, and its blending of the visions of poetical fancy with the expectations of a higher destiny, are everywhere visible in the works of our poets. The French, on the other hand, have sought their materials of fiction chiefly in the past; and the genius of the past, the spirit of classical antiquity, has been invoked and adopted by them. Nature, as she appears in the external world, and as she is manifested in the thoughts and actions of man, is the divinity of the English. The French have done homage to art; refined and glorious art, it is true, but still art; and when they have admitted nature into their exhibitions, she has been compelled to play a subordinate part, her promptings only feeble and occasional, instead of possessing ihe powerful and universal sway she exercises where her sovereignty is acknowledged. This contempt or disregard of nature is evident elsewhere than in their writings. Their manners and fashions of dress are artificial; they seem to have a natural talent for perverting objects from their original tendency. Their vivacity, and perpetual use of extravagant figures in speech and composition, may be thought by some to indicate a natural fertility of imagination; but an examination of the works of their greatest poets will prove them eminently deficient in this creative faculty. They have been chiefly borrowers, and, though tolerably successful imitators, are certainly not entitled to the admiration which is the deserved meed of originality.
These remarks are intended to apply principally to the tragic and lyric writers of France, and to those who have arisen since the days of the bards of Provence, of the Troubadours and the Trouveurs and Conteurs, in whose sweet and stirring lays was born the first impulse of that romantic spirit which has since diffused itself over Europe. It is of the French classics, to whom these gave place, that we speak; on whom the nation rest their claims to literary distinction, and whose productions are more strongly contrasted with those of their English cotemporaries. The change to the classic spirit, which took place among the predecessors of Corneille, seemed to be peculiarly to the taste of the people; and, after the attainment of their greatest writers to the wishedfor resemblance to the Greeks, they were considered to have reached the supreme goal of poetic merit. The popular taste, modelled after that of the court, sought for no further excellences; and would probably, under the same influence, have frowned upon any innovation. Their only care was to sustain themselves at the height, to which they fancied themselves elevated.
In this artificial and monotonous state the poetry of France long remained. It was to have been anticipated, that the tumults and conflicts of that eventful century, which produced the Revolution and its unprecedented consequences, would have influenced the most fluctuating of all departments of literature ; that the same mutable spirit, at work in politics and in society, would have made itself felt in poetry. But this was not immediately the case. No change was perceptible
during the period of disorders and agitation ; it was only in
; the tranquillity succeeding the restoration of the Bourbons, that men found leisure to turn from the pursuits of active life, and walk in the gardens of the Muse. New principles began to be developed in the poetical art, and rapidly gained strength as they were made subservient to political views.
Since the revolution of 1830, and the accession of the Citizen King, a prodigious impulse has been given to the spirit of the popular writers of the day, who have most of them thrown off even the pretence of respect for the ancient school. The new system brought into favor by them, they denominate by way of distinction, the romantic ; claiming credit for the merits belonging to the modern poets of this class, while they "out-Herod Herod " in the extravagances, which they imagine to distinguish happily the objects of their new-born veneration. If any term could be invented expressive of the widest degree of license, it would be more applicable than romantic, to their productions ; as these new authors disdain utterly the limits, prescribed by nature, morality, and good taste, which legitimately control the excursive genius of the true romantic. The drama is the most popular form, in which this novel spirit has exhibited itself; and in the drama the most mischievous and reprehensible licentiousness prevails at the present time in France. A glimpse of its condition has been already afforded to our countrymen through the pages of this journal; * another field is now open to our investigation.
The recent change in French taste may, we think, be owing in a great degree to the influence of the song-writers. Their sway over the popular mind was increased by the circumstance, that their effusions were made to serve their respective factions ; and they generally took part with the multitude. Belonging perhaps by birth to the inferior classes, (Béranger is a case in point,) they were less hampered than the more cultivated portion of the community by the prejudices in favor of l'ancien régime, which would have stood in the way of authors of greater pretensions. Then the freedom indulged in by the chansonnier, perhaps regarded at first as a mere means of contributing to the temporary amusement of the populace, had leisure to exert and extend its subtile effects. The liberty, which in more elevated and elaborate compositions would
* North American Review, No. XCII., for July, 1836, p. 133.
probably have been checked at once by the outraged formalists, in productions of so fugitive a nature created no alarm ; and one encroachment after another was permitted with impunity. Thus the affection of the people for models of antiquity was sapped in its foundations, and the most startling innovations perpetrated in the very presence of the divinities hitherto exclusively worshipped.
Having thus glanced briefly at the state of French poetry in general, we shall examine the works of some of their principal lyric writers. Delavigne is first on our list ; a poet to whom, notwithstanding the beauty of his patriotic effusions, we are inclined to refuse the first honors. We do not find fault with him for borrowing sometimes ; all his brethren do that ; it is the privilege of the poetic tribe; but his obligations are too frequent and important. - His tragedies and comedies
occupy the first volume of his works. They are formed after the classic plan, though in Marino Faliero, a wretched travestie of Byron, the author would seem to have made some attempts to break through his trammels. Le Paria, among these pieces, is the one most to our taste ; and L’École des Vieillards, among the comedies ; though we cannot decidedly say we were moved by any emotion of admiration or sympathy in reading any of them. – We turn with pleasure from these dolorous
plays to the lyrics of M. Delavigne. Here we are arrested by his Elegies, to which he has given a title requiring some explanation. He undertakes, in imitation of Tyrtæus and Callinus, to sing of the missortunes of his country; and, reminding his readers of the elegies upon the reverses of Messenia in “ Le Voyage d’Anacharsis,” proposes to call his elegiac poems“ Messéniennes.” Without quarrelling with this farfetched appellation, let us see what claims they have to our approval.
The “ Messéniennes" are nineteen in number, and are followed by poems on various subjects, and a poetical Epistle to the members of the French Academy upon a debated question concerning the advantages of study. The national elegies are highly lauded by the French critics, who maintain that they unite patriotism and energy with elegance, clearness, and elevation of style. We think none will question the patriotism of M. Delavigne; nor are we disposed to deny him a due measure of the other qualities claimed for himn.
The elegy on the Battle of Waterloo has many spirited and brilliant pas