Слике страница
PDF
ePub

sages; and if the bursts of his patriotism are marred by occasional extravagance, its origin must cause it to be pardoned. In the second Messénienne, upon la Dévastation du Musée et des Monumens,” the author's indignation has carried him far beyond the bounds of that sainte vérité, which he personifies in the commencement of the poem ; and the extravagance of his abuse of the foreign victors is hardly atoned for by the splendor of the poetry, in which they are consigned to evil fame.

The two elegies upon the life and death of the Maid of Arc are strikingly beautiful. The fine simile which commences the first, that of the tumultuous waves of ocean rushing on to devastate the land, and checked by the controlling voice of God, well illustrates the wild rage of a nation flushed with victory, and eager for further conquest. There is a lyric energy, approaching to sublimity, in parts of this poem. The death of Joan is not less admirable. He reprobates, with contemptuous sarcasm, the eager revenge of the multitude. A qui réserve-t-on ces apprêts meurtriers ?

Pour qui ces torches qu’on excite?

L’airain sacré tremble et s'agite
D'où vient ce bruit lugubre ? où courent ces guerriers
Dont la foule à longs flots roule et se précipite?

La joie éclate sur leurs traits,

Sans doute l'honneur les enflamme;
Ils vont pour un assaut former leur rangs épais;

Non, ces guerriers sont des Anglais,
Qui vont voir mourir une femme."

[ocr errors]

a

[ocr errors]

a

The eleventh Messénienne, to Napoleon, is among our favorites, though in a different style. The “angels of his fate" are represented as appearing to Bonaparte in his tent at night. It was natural that the subject of Napoleon should employ the pens of many of the modern poets. Three in France have taken him for a theme, besides Byron and Manzoni among the great ones of other lands. The two last alone please us particularly

The next elegy is on Lord Byron, whom we confess we were not a little surprised to stumble upon in this vicinity, being quite at a loss to explain how his Lordship came to be enumerated among the “misfortunes of France,” till we found ourselves informed in a note, that Byron's ancestors were NO. 95.

47

VOL. XLIV.

originally from Normandy. As he may consequently be claimed as a descendant of France, and foster-brother to Corneille, M. Delavigne doubtless considered him as a legitimate subject for a Messénienne. 66 Three Days of Christopher Columbus, to the Americans,” is good, and written in less irregular measure. The opening of Les Funérailles du Général Foy is much in the style of Lamartine.

“Non, tu ne connais pas encore
Ce sentiment d'ivresse et de mélancolie,
Qu'inspire d'un beau jour la splendeur affaiblie;

Toi qui n'as pas vu les flots d'or,
Où nage à son couchant un soleil d'Italie,
Inonder du Forum l'enceinte ensevelie

Et le temple détruit de Jupiter Stator!
“ “Non, tu ne connais pas l'irresistible empire

Des beautés qu'il déploie au moment qu'il expire,
Si tes yeux n'ont pas vu son declin vif et pur,
Qui s'éteint par degrés sur Alban et Tibur,
Verser les derniers feux d'une ardeur épuisée

A travers le brillant azure

Des portiques du Colisée ! “Sur le mont Janicule et ses pins toujours verts, Tu meurs, mais dans ta gloire; on t'admire, on te chante;

De cette Rome plus touchant
Qui pleure ta clarté ravie à ses deserts.

Du trône tu descends comme elle ;
Jadis ses monumens t'égalaient en splendeur ;
D'une reine déchue amant toujours fidèle,

Que ta lumière est triste et belle

Sur les débris de sa grandeur !
Tes rayons amortis, que le regard supporte,

Pálissent en les éclairant,
Soleil, et ton éclat mourant

S'unit mieux à leur beauté morte.
Ainsi l'on voit s'éteindre, environné d'hommages,
Le talent inspiré qui, pur et sans nuages,

N'a brillé que par la vertu.
Ainsi nous l'admirons, ainsi nos larmes coulent,
Au milieu des débris de nos lois qui s'écroulent,

Comme un monument abattu ;
Et l'éclat plus sacré de ce flambeau qui tombe

Répand les derniers seux dont il est embrasé
Sur le temple détruit et sur l'autel brisé

De la Liberté qui succombe.” Among the most graceful of the minor poems is one entitled L'Attente. We will translate some of the stanzas.

“Live happy, - death is in our train;

Of him doth here instruct us, all;
The wine our thirsty lips now drain,

The glass our careless hand lets fall.
His torch's brief and waning light

Bids us let care and trouble fly;
Drink, friends, while yet the flame is bright;

Each one of us ere that may die.

[ocr errors]

“ Let him who rumored treasure craves,

A wandering life of labor live,
Dispute the pearl with crystal waves,

For perfumes with the Lybian strive.
Are the sweets hid on Afric's sand

These garlands worth, that crown our wine ?
Or amber spread o'er Asia's strand,

The golden splendors of the vine?

*

“When golden urns her heroes held

Rome paid her honors at their grave;
Their proud funereal domes to build,

Exhausted Paros marbles gave.
Vain grandeur! Ages have bereft

Earth of these monuments sublime;
Anacreon but a page has left

Still floating on the abyss of time.

“ Read his song - imitate his joys;

Noble, yet soft, serenely gay;
Be ruled our wants by wisdom's voice,

Nor waste in plans our hopes away.
No youthful pleasures immolate

But to prolong this care and strife;
Give to the void which is our fate

A well-filled, if not lengthened life!"

We next take up M. de Lamartine, because his works form a contrast in some respects to those of Delavigne. While the latter has found his inspiration in patriotism, in the love of liberty and hatred of tyranny, the genius of the former is kindled at the shrine of religious enthusiasm. Nearly all the productions of Lamartine are animated by a religious spirit; and his zeal is pure and chastened, not turbulent or fanatical. Yet bis enthusiasm partakes of the excess to which it is rendered liable by the author's richness of fancy and impulsive character ; and to his readiness in furnishing brilliant or striking illustrations of his thoughts, he not unfrequently sacrifices the simplicity which is the principal charm of effusions of this kind. Too great a profusion of ornament is unsuitable to sacred subjects; and where our poet likens his religious aspirations to the doings of every animate or inanimate object in nature, we feel oppressed by the affluence of similitudes, and even disposed to regard as questionable the piety which can indulge in such excursive flights. His habit of mingling his private feelings with those of devotion is also a clear violation of good taste. Our readers may recollect in his Travels in the East, recently published, (a work, by the way, in which we were much disappointed, having expected better things from the gifted author ihan such a mass of exaggerated sentiment and turgid declaination,) some verses entitled * Gethsemane, or the Death of Julia," wherein he mixes the penitence excited by the view of those scenes, with his sorrow for the death of a favorite child. Such exhibitions of private feelings are more relished, it is true, by the French than by us; but we cannot help regarding them, at all times, as a violation of nature, for emotion naturally shrinks from public display ; nor can we imagine this rule entirely reversed even in French human nature. However, we will not quarrel with M. de Lamartine on the very threshold of our acquaintance with him, but rather proceed to show how many unquestionable claims he has upon our friendship and esteem, which we shall do con amore. His language owes him a deep debt for the improvements in versification he has had the boldness to introduce, and for transplanting so happily many of the beauties of foreign writers. We will examine in detail the works of this first living poet of France.

His poetical“ Meditations "occupy the greater portion of one volume. They are about fifty-six in number, and are followed by poems on various subjects, among which is “ The Last Canto of Childe Harold,” an attempted sequel to Byron's great poem. We prefer infinitely his shorter lyrics ; and some of these are not surpassed by any thing in the French language. The chief peculiarity of Lamartine is his picturesque style, the graphic expression of his thoughts. His language is not merely glowing, but sparkling ; flashes of brilliant, fanciful illustration adorn every page.

His words convey a succession of distinct pictures to the mind. This is not merely the case in his descriptions, but also in poems upon subjects of metaphysical discussion. Almost every thing in the moral world has with him its appropriate simile in the natural; and these are generally most happily applied. His language is condensed, energetic, and harmonious.

As a specimen of the poems of a religious cast, we will extract some stanzas from one of his “ Harmonies,” always craving pardon of our author for the meagre justice we do him in our translation. His devotion is ever marked by a tone of melancholy.

WHY IS MY SOUL SAD ?
“Why groanest thou in ceaseless gloom,

O fainting soul? reply!
Whence doth the weight of sadness come,

'Neath which thy powers so helpless lie ?
Into the tomb that waits for all
Thou hast not yet seen sadly fall

Thy youth's last-cherished friend;
Thy star of life with unquenched ray
Lifts up its head, then wherefore, say,

Wherefore have yet thy sighs no end?
“ Earth hath her scenes of beauty still,

And heaven its days of loveliness,
Glory her tumults,

yet can thrill
The heart which love has power to bless.
Still to thy glance can nature show
Wonders thou never yet didst know,

Ne'er yet profaned by mortal eyes;
And withering all that hope may yield,
Thy hand in her ungathered field

Hath not yet gained the prize.
And what is earth ? a prison floating sent,
A narrow bourne, a fragile bark, a tent

« ПретходнаНастави »