In the Preface to "Troilus and Cressida," (1679,) Dryden again—and for the last time—descants, in the same unsatisfactory strain, on Shakspeare. AEschylus, he tells us, was held in the same veneration by the Athenians of after ages as Shakspeare by his countrymen. But in the age of that poet, the Greek tongue had arrived at its full perfection, and they had among them an exact standard of writing and speaking; whereas the English language, even in his (Dryden's) own age, was wanting in the very foundation of certainty, "a perfect grammar:" so, what must it have been in Shakspeare's time?
"The tongue in general is so much refined since then, that many of his words, and more of his phrases, are scarce intelligible. And of those which we understand, some are ungrammatical, others coarse; and his whole style is so pestered with figurative expressions, that it is as affected as it is obscure. It is true that, in his latter plays, he had worn off somewhat of the rust; but the tragedy which I have undertaken to correct was in all probability one of his first endeavours on the stage.... So lamely is it left to us, that it is not divided into acts. For the play itself, the author seems to have begun it with some fire. The characters of Pandarus and Thersites are promising enough; but, as if he grew weary of his task, after an entrance or two, he lets them fall; and the latter part of the tragedy is nothing but a confusion of drums and trumpets, excursions, and alarms. The persons who give name to the tragedy are left alive. Cressida is false, and is not punished. Yet, after all, because the play was Shakspeare's, and that there appeared in some places of it the admirable genius of the author, I undertook to remove that heap of rubbish, under which many excellent thoughts lay wholly buried. Accordingly, I have remodelled the plot, threw out many unnecessary persons, improved those which were begun and left unfinished, as Hector, Troilus, Pandarus, and Thersites, and added that of Andromache. After that, I made, with no small trouble, an order and connexion of all the scenes, removing them from the place where they were inartificially set; and though it was impossible to keep them all unbroken, because the scene must be sometimes in the city and sometimes in the court, yet I have so ordered them, that there is a coherence of them with one another, and a dependence on the main design: no leaping from Troy to the Grecian tents, and thence back again, in the same act, but a due proportion of time allowed for every motion. I need not say that I have refined the language, which before was obsolete; but I am willing to acknowledge, that as I have often drawn his English nearer to our times, so I have sometimes conformed my own to his; and consequently, the language is not altogether so pure as it is significant."
John Dryden and Samuel Johnson resemble one another very strongly in their treatment of Shakspeare. Both of them seem at times to have perfectly understood and felt his greatness, and both of them have indited glorious things in its exaltation. Their praise is the utterance of worship. You might believe them on their knees before an idol. But theirs is a strange kind of reverence. It alternates with derision, and is compatible with contempt. The god sinks into the man and the man is a barbarian, babbling uncouth speech. "Coarse," "ungrammatical," "obscure," "affected," "unintelligible," "rusty!" The words distilled from the lips of Cordelia, Desdemona, Juliet, Imogen!
Dryden informs us, that ages after the death of AEschylus, the Athenians ordained an equal reward to the poets who could alter his plays to be acted in the theatre, with those whose productions were wholly new, and of their own. But the case, he laments, is not the same in England, though the difficulties are greater. AEschylus wrote good Greek, Shakspeare bad English; and to make it intelligible to a refined audience was a hard job. Sorely "pestered with figurative expressions" must have been the transmogrifier; and he had to look for wages, not to a nation's gratitude, but a manager's greed. It was, indeed, a desperate expedient for raising the funds. In his judgment the Play itself was but a poor affair—an attempt by an apprentice, that, to be producible, required the shaping of a master's hand. "Lamely left" it had to be set on its feet ere it could tread the stage. With what nonchalance does he throw out "unnecessary persons," and improve "unfinished!" Hector, Troilus, Pandarus, and Thersites, skilless Shakspeare had but begun—artful Dryden made an end of them; Cressida, who was false as she was fair, yet left alive to deceive more men, became a paragon of truth, chastity, and suicide; and by an amazing stretch of invention, far beyond the Swan's, was added Andromache. Dryden proudly announces that "the scenes of Pandarus and Cressida, of Troilus and Pandarus, of Andromache with Hector and the Trojans, in the second act, are wholly new; together with that of Nestor and Ulysses with Thersites, and that of Thersites with Ajax and Achilles. I will not weary my reader with the scenes which are added of Pandarus and the lovers in the third, and those of Thersites, which are wholly altered; but I cannot omit the last scene in it, which is almost half the act, betwixt Troilus and Hector. I have been so tedious in three acts, that I shall contract myself in the two last. The beginning scenes of the fourth act are either added, or changed wholly by me; the middle of it is Shakspeare's, altered and mingled with my own; three or four of the last scenes are altogether new; and the whole fifth act, both the plot and the writing, are my own additions." O heavens! why was it not all "my own?"
No human being can have a right to use another in such a way as this. Shakspeare's plays were then, and are now, as much his own property as the property of the public—or rather, the public holds them in trust. Dryden was a delinquent towards the dead. His crime was sacrilege. In reading his "Troilus and Cressida," you ever and anon fear you have lost your senses. Bits of veritable Shakspearean gold, burnished star-bright, embossed in pewter! Diamonds set in dirt! Sentences illuminated with words of power, suddenly rising and sinking, through a flare of fustian! Here Apollo's lute—there hurdy-gurdy.
"For the play itself," said Dryden insolently, "the author seems to have begun it with some fire;" and here it is continued with much smoke. "The characters of Pandarus and Thersites are promising enough;" here we shudder at their performance. Such a monstrous Pandarus would have been blackballed at the Pimp. Thersites—Shakspeare's Thersites—for Homer's was another Thersites quite—finely called by Coleridge, "the Caliban of demagogic life"—loses all individuality, and is but a brutal buffoon grossly caricatured. The scene between Ulysses and Achilles, with its wondrous wisdomful speech, is omitted! of itself, worth all the poetry written between the Restoration and the Revolution.
Spirit of Glorious John! forgive, we beseech thee, truth-telling Christopher—but angels and ministers of grace defend us! WHO ART THOU? Shakspeare's ghost.
PROLOGUE, SPOKEN BY MR BETTERTON, REPRESENTING THE GHOST OF SHAKSPEARE.
"See, my loved Britons, see your Shakspeare rise, An awful ghost confess'd to human eyes! Unnamed, methinks, distinguish'd I had been From other shades, by this eternal green, About whose wreaths the vulgar poets strive, And, with a touch, their wither'd bays revive. Untaught, unpractised, in a barbarous age, I found not, but created first the stage; And if I drain'd no Greek or Latin store, 'Twas that my own abundance gave me more. On foreign trade I needed not rely, Like fruitful Britain, rich without supply. In this my rough-drawn play you shall behold Some master-strokes, so manly and so bold, That he who meant to alter, found 'em such, He shook, and thought it sacrilege to touch. Now, where are the successors to my name? What bring they to fill out a poet's fame? Weak, short-lived issues of a feeble age; Scarce living to be christen'd on the stage! For humour farce, for love they rhyme dispense, That tolls the knell for their departed sense. Dulness, that in a playhouse meets disgrace, Might meet with reverence in its proper place. The fulsome clench that nauseates the town, Would from a judge or alderman go down— Such virtue is there in a robe and gown! And that insipid stuff which here you hate, Might somewhere else be call'd a grave debate: Dulness is decent in the church and state. But I forget that still 'tis understood Bad plays are best decried by showing good. Sit silent, then, that my pleased soul may see A judging audience once, and worthy me. My faithful scene from true records shall tell, How Trojan valour did the Greek excel; Your great forefathers shall their fame regain, And Homer's angry ghost repine in vain."
The best hand of any man that ever lived, at prologue and epilogue, was Dryden. And here he showed himself to be the boldest too; and above fear of ghosts. For though it was but a make-believe, it must have required courage in Shakspeare's murderer to look on its mealy face. The ghost speaks well—nobly—for six lines—though more like Dryden's than Shakspeare's. That was not his style when alive. The seventh line would have choked him, had he been a mere light-and-shadow ghost. But in death never would he thus have given the lie to his life. "Untaught," he might have truly said—for he had no master. "Unpractised!" Nay, "Troilus and Cressida" sprang from a brain that had teemed with many a birth. "A barbarous age!" Read—"Great Eliza's golden time," when the sun of England's genius was at meridian. "Sacrilege to touch!" Prologue had not read Preface. Little did the "injured ghost" suspect the spectacle that was to ensue. Much of what follows is, in worse degree, Drydenish all over. Sweetest Shakspeare scoffed not so!
Suppose Shakspeare's ghost to have slipped quietly into the manager's box to witness the performance. Poets after death do not lose all memory of their own earthly visions. Thoughts of the fairest are with them in Paradise. At first sight of Dorinda he would have bolted.
Dryden says, that "he knew not to distinguish the blown puffy style from true sublimity." He would then have done so, and no mistake. "The fury of his fancy often transported him beyond the bounds of judgment, either in coining of new words and phrases, or racking words which were in use, into the violence of catachresis." His ears would have been jarred by Prospero's "polite conversation," so unlike what he, who had not "kept the best society," was confined to "in a barbarous age." Yet Dryden confessed that he "understood the nature of the passions," and "made his characters distinct;" so that "his failings were not so much in the passions themselves, as in his manner of expression." Unfortunately, his vocabulary was neither choice nor extensive, and he "often obscured his meaning by his words, and sometimes made it unintelligible."
"To speak justly of this whole matter: it is neither height of thought that is discommended, nor pathetic vehemence, nor any nobleness of expression in its proper place; but it is a false measure of all these, something which is like them, and is not them; it is the Bristol stone, which appears like a diamond; it is an extravagant thought instead of a sublime one; it is a roaring madness instead of vehemence; a sound of words instead of sense. If Shakspeare were stripped of all the bombasts in his passions, and dressed in the most vulgar words, we should find the beauties of his thoughts remaining; if his embroideries were burnt down, there would still be silver at the bottom of the melting-pot, but I fear (at least let me fear it for myself) that we, who ape his sounding words, have nothing of his thought, but are all outside; there is not so much as dwarf within our giant's clothes. Therefore, let not Shakspeare suffer for our sakes; it is our fault, who succeed him in an age that is more refined, if we imitate him so ill that we copy his failings only, and make a virtue of that in our writings which in his was an imperfection.
"For what remains, the excellency of that poet was, as I have said, in the more manly passions; Fletcher's in the softer. Shakspeare writ better betwixt man and man; Fletcher betwixt man and woman: consequently the one described friendship better—the other love. Yet Shakspeare taught Fletcher to write love; and Juliet and Desdemona are originals. It is true, the scholar had the softer soul, but the master had the kinder. Friendship is both a virtue and a passion essentially; love is passion only in its nature, and is not a virtue but by accident: good-nature makes friendship, but effeminacy love. Shakspeare had an universal mind, which comprehended all characters and passions; Fletcher, a more confined and limited: for though he treated love in perfection, yet honour, ambition, revenge, and generally all the stronger passions, he either touched not, or not masterly. To conclude all he was a limb of Shakspeare."
[Footnote 1: The prose even is, in its music, rude in ordinary folks—or artful, as in Hamlet's admiration of the world.]
THE TOWER OF LONDON.—A POEM.
BY THOMAS ROSCOE.
Proud Julian towers! ye whose grey turrets rise In hoary grandeur, mingling with the skies— Whose name—thought—image—every spot are rife With startling legends—themes of death in life! Recall the voices of wrong'd spirits fled— Echoes of life that long survived their dead; And let them tell the history of thy crimes, The present teach, and warn all future times.
Time's veil withdrawn, what tragedies of woe Loom in the distance, fill the ghastly show! Oh, tell what hearts, torn from light's cheering ray, Within thy death-shades bled their lives away; What anxious hopes, strifes, agonies, and fears, In thy dread walls have linger'd years on years— Still mock'd the patient prisoner as he pray'd That death would shroud his woes—too long delay'd!
Could the great Norman, with prophetic eye, Have scann'd the vista of futurity, And seen the cell-worn phantoms, one by one, Rise and descend—the father to the son— Whose purest blood, by treachery and guilt, On thy polluted scaffolds has been spilt, Methinks Ambition, with his subtle art, Had fired his hero to a nobler part. Yes! curst Ambition—spoiler of mankind— That with thy trophies lur'st the dazzled mind, That 'neath the gorgeous veil thy conquests weave, Would'st hide thy form, and Reason's eye deceive— By what strange spells still dost thou rule the mind That madly worships thee, or, tamely blind, Forbears to fathom thoughts, that at thy name Should kindle horror, and o'erwhelm with shame.
Alas, that thus the human heart should pay Too willing homage to thy bloody sway; Should stoop submissive to a fiend sublime And venerate e'en the majesty of crime! How soon to those that tempt thee art thou near— To prompt, direct, and steel the heart to fear! Oh, not to such the voice of peace shall speak, Nor placid zephyr fan their fever'd cheek; Sleep ne'er shall seal their hot and blood-stain'd eye, But conscious visions ever haunt them nigh; Grandeur to them a faded flower shall be, Wealth but a thorn, and power a fruitless tree; And, as they near the tomb, with panting breast, Shrink from the dread unknown, yet hope no rest!
Stern towers of strength! once bulwarks of the land, When feudal power bore sway with sovereign hand— Frown ye no more—the glory of the scene— Sad, silent witness of what crimes have been! Accurst the day when first our Norman foe Taught Albion's high-born Saxon sons to bow 'Neath victor-pride and insolence—learn to feel What earth's dark woes—when abject vassals kneel; And worse the hour when his remorseless heir, Alike uncheck'd by heaven, or earthly prayer, With lusts ignoble, fed by martial might, Usurp'd man's fair domains and native right.
Ye generous spirits that protect the brave, And watch the seaman o'er the crested wave, Cast round the fearless soul your glorious spell, That fired a Hampden and inspired a Tell— Why left ye Wallace, greatest of the free, His hills' proud champion—heart of liberty— Alone to cope with tyranny and hate, To sink at last in ignominious fate? Sad Scotia wept, and still on valour's shrine Our glistening tears, like pearly dewdrops, shine, To tell the world how Albyn's hero bled, And treasure still the memory of her dead. Whose prison annals speak of thrilling deeds, How truth is tortured and how genius bleeds? Whose eye dare trace them down the tragic stream— Mark what fresh phantoms in the distance gleam, As dark and darker o'er th' ensanguined page The ruthless deed pollutes each later age? See where the rose of Bolingbroke's rich bloom Fades on the bed of martyr'd Richard's tomb! Look where the spectre babes, still smiling fair, Spring from the couch of death to realms of air! Oh, thought accurst! that uncle, guardian, foe, Should join in one to strike the murderous blow. Ask we for tears from pity's sacred fount? "Forbear!" cries vengeance—"that is my account." There is a power—an eye whose light can span The dark-laid schemes of the vain tyrant, man. Lo! where it pierces through the shades of night, And all its hideous secrets start to light— In vain earth's puny conquerors heaven defy— Their kingdom's dust, and but one throne on high. See heaven's applause support the virtuous wrong'd, And 'midst his state the despot's fears prolong'd. Thou tyrant, yes! the declaration God Himself hath utter'd—"I'm the avenging rod!" Words wing'd with fate and fire! oh, not in vain Ye cleft the air, and swept Gomorrah's plain, When, dark idolatry unmask'd, she stood The mark of heaven—a fiery solitude! And still ye sped—still mark'd the varied page In every time—through each revolving age— Wherever man trampled his fellow man, Unscared by crimes, ye marr'd his ruthless plan— Still shall ye speed till time has pass'd away, And retribution reigns o'er earth's last day.
Methinks I hear from each relentless stone The spirits of thy martyr'd victims groan, And eager whispers Echo round each cell The oft repeated legend, and re-dwell, With the same fondness that bespeaks delight In childhood's heart, when on some winter's night, As stormy winds low whistle through the vale, It shuddering lists the thrilling ghostly tale. It seems but now that blood was spilt, whose stain Proclaims the dastard soul—the bloody reign Of the Eighth Harry—vampire to his wife, Who traffick'd for his divorce with her life; So fresh, so moist, each ruddy drop appears Indelible through centuries of years! And who is this whose beauteous figure moves, Onward to meet the reeking form she loves; Whose noble mien—whose dignity of grace, Extort compassion from each gazing face? 'Tis Dudley's bride! like some fair opening flower Torn from its stem—she meets fate's direst hour; Still unappall'd she views that bloody bier, Takes her last sad farewell without a tear.
Each weeping muse hath told how Essex died, Favourite and victim, doom'd by female pride. How courtly Suffolk spent his latest day, And dying Raleigh penn'd his deathless lay. Here noble Strafford too severely taught How dearly royal confidence is bought; Received the warrant which demands his breath, And with a calm composure walk'd—to death. Nor 'mong the names that liberty holds dear, Shall the great Russell be forgotten here; His country's boast—each patriot's honest pride— For them he lived—for them he wept and died.
And must we yet another page unfold, To glean fresh moral from the deeds of old? Ye busy spirits that pervade the air, And still with dark intents to earth repair; That goad the passions of the human breast, And bear the missives of Fate's stern behest— Say, stifle ye those thoughts that Heaven reveals— The tears of sympathy—the glow that steals O'er the young heart, or prompts soft pity's sigh— The prayer to snatch from harsh captivity The virtuous doom'd—teach but to praise—admire— Forbid to catch one spark of generous fire? The godlike wish of genius, man to bless, With rank and wealth still leaguing to oppress! Oh! when shall glory wreathe bright virtue's claim, And both to honour give a holier fame?
Ye towers of death!—the noblest still your prey, Here spent in solitude their sunless day; In your wall'd graves a living doom they found; Broke o'er their night no ray, no gladd'ning sound. Yet the mind's splendour, with imprison'd wings, Rose high, and shone where the pure seraph sings; Where human thought taught conscience it was free, And burst the shackles of the Romish See. Oh, sweetest liberty! how dear to die! Bound by each sacred link;, each holy tie; To save unspotted from the spoiler's hand, Child of our heart—our own—our native land! And, oh! how dear life's latest drop to shed, To free the minds by superstition led;— To spread with holy earnest zeal abroad, That priceless gem—freedom to worship God! To keep unmingled with the world's vain lore, The faith that lightens every darken'd hour; That faith which can alone the sinner save, Prepare for death, and raise him from the grave; Show how, by yielding all, we surest prove, How humbly, deeply, truly, we can love; How much we prize that hope divinely given, The key—the seal—the passport into heaven.
What sudden blaze spreads through the crimson skies, And still in loftier volumes seems to rise? What meteor gleams, that from the fiery north, In savage grandeur fast are bursting forth, And light your very walls? Tell me, ye Towers— 'Tis Smithfield revelling in his festal hours, Fed with your captives: shrieks that wildly pierce The roaring flames now undulating fierce, And gasping struggles, mingled groans, proclaim The power of torture o'er the writhing frame. Dark are your dens, and deep your secret cells, Whose silent gloom your tale of horrors tells. Saw ye how Cranmer dared—yet fear'd to die, Trembling 'mid hopes of immortality? He stood alone;—a brighter band appears Unaw'd by threats—impregnable to fears; Who suffer'd glad the sacred truth to spread, In mild obedience to its fountain-head. And when at length our popish James would see Cold superstition bend th' unhallow'd knee, The mystic tapers on our altars burn, And clouds of incense shade the fragrant urn, Shone England's prelates faithful to their call, In bonds of truth within thy massive wall. See grace divine—see Heaven in mercy pour, The balm of peace on Albion's boasted shore.
Once wrought by captive fingers on thy wall, The hero's home and prison, grave and pall, What dark lines meet the startled stranger's gaze, Thoughts that ennoble—sentiments that raise The iron'd captive from captivity, How high above the power of tyranny!— And ye that wander by the evening tide, Where mountains swell or mossy streamlets glide; That on fresh hills can hail morn's orient ray, And chant with birds your grateful hymns to day; Or seek at noon, beneath some pleasant shade, To feel the sunbeams cool'd by leafy glade— That free as air, morn, noon, and eve, can roam, Where'er you list, and nature call your home; Learn from a hopeless prisoner's words and fate, "Virtue is valour—to be patient, great!" When traced on prison walls, such words as these Arrest the eye—appall e'en while they please— "Ah! hapless he who cannot bear the weight, With patient heart of a too partial fate, For adverse times and fortunes do not kill, But rash impatience of impending ill."
Yes, still they speak to bosoms that are free Within the girdle of captivity; Of spirits dauntless, who could spurn the chain Of human punishment or mortal pain; That e'en amid these precincts of despair, Dared free themselves from thraldom's jealous care— Bound but by ties of faith and virtue, be Heirs of bright hopes and immortality. Oh! great mind's proud inscriptions! Who shall tell What hand engraved those lines within that cell? What heart yet steadfast while around him stood Phantoms of death to chill his curdling blood, Could battle with despair on reason's throne, And conquer where the fiend would reign alone? Ah! who can tell what sorrows pierced his breast— Ran through each vein, usurp'd his hours of rest? What struggle nerved his trembling hand to trace With moral courage words he dared to face With acts that ask'd new efforts while he wrote To man his soul and fix his every thought! Tremble, thou tyrant! proud ambition, blush! Hearts such as these thy power can never crush. Are they forgotten? no, the rugged stone, The lap of earth on which they rested lone; The very implements of torture there— The axe, the rack, the tyrant's jealous care; Each mark that meets successive ages' eyes Speaks, trumpet-tongued, a fame that never dies; And tells the thoughtful stranger, while the tear Unbidden starts, that freedom triumph'd here— Plumed her immortal wings for nobler flight, And bore her martyr'd brave to realms of light. Nor false their faith, nor like the fleeting wind, Their spirits fled! for theirs the unprison'd mind, No tyrant-chains, no bonds of earth and time, Could hold from truth and freedom's heights sublime— From that bright heaven of science, whence they shed Fresh glory o'er man's cause for which they bled. Ask what is left? their names forgotten now? Their birth, their fortune? not a trace to show Where sleeps their dust? Go, seek the blest abode, Their mind's pure joy, the bosom of their God! Then tell if in the dull cold prison's air, And wasted to a living shadow there, Earth scarcely knew them! if they were alone Where they were cast, to pine away unknown? Friends, had they none? nor beam'd a wish to share Love, friendship, and to breathe the common air. Lost, lost to all! like some lone desert flower, Felt they unseen Time's slow consuming power, And hail'd each parting day with fond delight, As the tired pilgrim greets the waning light?
No! glad bright spirits, guardians of the mind, Were with them; as the demon-powers unbind And lash their furies on the conscious breast Of earth's fell tyrants who ne'er dream of rest. Theirs, too, joy's harbinger, the thoughts aye fed With brighter objects than of earth, that shed A light within their narrow home, and gave A triumph's lustre to the yawning grave. And in that hour when the proud heart's o'erthrown, And self all-powerless, self is truly known; When pride no more could darken the free mind, But all to God in firm faith was resign'd— Then drank their souls the stream of love divine, More richly flowing than the Eastern mine; Felt heaven expanding in the heart renew'd, And more than friends in desert solitude.
Peace to thy martyrs! thou art frowning now With all the array of bold and martial show; The same thy battlements with trophies dress'd, Present defiance to the hostile breast; Around thy walls the soldier keeps his ward, Scared with war's sights no more thy peaceful guard. Long may ye stand, the voice of other years, And ope, in future times, no fount of tears And sorrows like the past, such as have brought A mournful gloom and shadow o'er the thought; And if the eye one pitying drop has shed, That drop is sacred, it embalms the dead. What though a thousand years have roll'd away Since thy dread walls entomb'd their noble prey; To us they speak, ask the warm tear to flow For ills now pressing and for present woe; Bid us to succour fellow-men who haste Along the thorny road of life, and taste The bitterness of poverty, endure All that befalls the too neglected poor; And with no friend, no bounty to assist, Steal from the world unwept for and unmiss'd.
What though no dungeon wrap the wasting clay, Or from the eye exclude the cheering ray; What though no tortures visibly may tear The writhing limbs, and leave their signet there; Has not chill penury a poison'd dart, Inflicting deeper wounds upon the heart? All the decrees the sternest fate may bind, To weigh the courage or display the mind— All man could bear, with heart unflinching bear, Did not a dearer part his sufferings share— Worse than the captive's fate—wife, child, his all, The husband, and the father's name, appall His very soul, and bid him thrilling feel Distraction, as he makes the vain appeal. Upon his brow, where manhood's hand had seal'd Its perfect dignity, is now reveal'd A haggard wanness; from his livid eye The manly fire has faded; cold and dry, No more it glistens to the light. His thought, To the last pitch of frantic memory wrought, Turns to the partner of his heart and woe, Who, weigh'd with grief, no lesser love can know; Despair soon haunts the hope that fills his breast, And passion's flood in tumult is express'd.
Amid the plains where ample plenty spreads Her copious stores and decks the yellow meads, The outcast turns a ghastly look to heaven; Oh, not for him is Nature's plenty given; Robb'd of the birthright nature freely gave, Save that last portion freely left—a grave! Oh, that another power would rule man's heart, Uncramp its free-born will in every part; Mercy more swift, justice more just, more slow, Grandeur less prone to deal the cruel blow, To bind men's hands with fetters than with alms, And spurn the only boon that soothes and calms.
England! thou dearest child of liberty; Free as thine ocean home for ever be; Thy commerce thrive; may thy deserted poor No more the pangs of poverty endure. Then shall thy Towers, proud monument! display The thousand trophies of a happier day; And genial climes, from earth's remotest shore, Their richest tributes to her genius pour, With wealth from Ind, with treasures from the West, Thy homes, thy hamlets—cities still be blest; Till virtue, truth, and justice, shall combine, And heavenly hope o'er many a bosom shine; Auspicious days hail thy fair Sovereign's reign, And happy subjects throng their golden train.
POEMS AND BALLADS OF GOETHE.
Goethe, though fertile in poems of the amatory and contemplative class, was somewhat chary of putting forth his strength in the ballad. We have already selected almost every specimen of this most popular and fascinating description of poetry which is at all worthy of his genius;—at least all of them which we thought likely, after making every allowance for variety of taste, to fulfil the main object of our task—to please and not offend. It would have been quite easy for us to spin out the series by translating the whole section of ballads which relate to the loves of "the Maid of the Mill," the "Gipsy's Song"—which somewhat unaccountably has found favour in the eyes of Mrs Austin—and a few more ditties of a similar nature, all of which we bequeath, with our best wishes, as a legacy to any intrepid redacteur who may wish to follow in our footsteps. For ourselves, we shall rigidly adhere to the rule with which we set out, and separate the wheat from the chaff, according to the best of our ability.
The first specimen of our present selection is not properly German, nor is it the unsuggested and original product of Goethe's muse. We believe that it is an old ballad of Denmark; a country which possesses, next to Scotland, the richest and most interesting store of ancient ballad poetry in Europe. However, although originally Danish, it has received some touches in passing through the alembic of translation, which may warrant us in giving it a prominent place, and we are sure that no lover of hoar tradition will blame us for its insertion.
"Oh, mother! rede me well, I pray; How shall I woo me yon winsome May?"
She has built him a horse of the water clear, The saddle and bridle of sea-sand were.
He has donn'd the garb of knight so gay, And to Mary's Kirk he has ridden away.
He tied his steed to the chancel door, And he stepp'd round the Kirk three times and four.
He has boune him into the Kirk, and all Drew near to gaze on him, great and small.
The priest he was standing in the quire;— "What gay young gallant comes branking here?"
The winsome maid, to herself said she;— "Oh, were that gay young gallant for me!"
He stepp'd o'er one stool, he stepp'd o'er two; "Oh, maiden, plight me thy oath so true!"
He stepp'd o'er three stools, he stepp'd o'er four; "Wilt be mine, sweet May, for evermore?"
She gave him her hand of the drifted snow— "Here hast thou my troth, and with thee I'll go."
They went from the Kirk with the bridal train, They danced in glee, and they danced full fain;
They danced them down to the salt-sea strand, And they left them there with hand in hand.
"Now wait thee, love, with my steed so free, And the bonniest bark I'll bring for thee."
And when they pass'd to the white, white sand, The ships came sailing towards the land;
But when they were out in the midst of the sound, Down went they all in the deep profound!
Long, long on the shore, when the winds were high, They heard from the waters the maiden's cry.
I rede ye, damsels, as best I can— Tread not the dance with the Water-Man!
This is strong, pure, rugged Norse, scarcely inferior, we think, in any way, to the pitch of the old Scottish ballads.
* * * * *
Before we forsake the North, let us try "The King in Thule." We are unfortunate in having to follow in the wake of the hundred translators of Faust, some of whom (we may instance Lord Francis Egerton) have already rendered this ballad as perfectly as may be; nevertheless we shall give it, as Shakspeare says, "with a difference."
THE KING IN THULE.
There was a king in Thule, Was true till death I ween: A vase he had of the ruddy gold, The gift of his dying queen.
He never pass'd it from him— At banquet 'twas his cup; And still his eyes were fill'd with tears Whene'er he took it up.
So when his end drew nearer, He told his cities fair, And all his wealth, except that cup, He left unto his heir.
Once more he sate at royal board, The knights around his knee, Within the palace of his sires, Hard by the roaring sea.
Up rose the brave old monarch, And drank with feeble breath, Then threw the sacred goblet down Into the flood beneath.
He watch'd its tip reel round and dip, Then settle in the main; His eyes grew dim as it went down— He never drank again.
* * * * *
We shall now venture on an extravaganza which might have been well illustrated by Hans Holbein. It is in the ultra-Germanic taste, such as in our earlier days, whilst yet the Teutonic alphabet was a mystery, we conceived to be the staple commodity of our neighbours. We shall never quarrel with a wholesome spice of superstition; but, really, Hoffmann, Apel, and their fantastic imitators, have done more to render their national literature ridiculous, than the greatest poets to redeem it. The following poem of Goethe is a strange piece of sarcasm directed against that school, and is none the worse, perhaps, that it somewhat out-herods Herod in its ghostly and grim solemnity. Like many other satires, too, it verges closely upon the serious. We back it against any production of M. G. Lewis.
THE DANCE OF DEATH.
The warder look'd down at the depth of night On the graves where the dead were sleeping, And, clearly as day, was the pale moonlight O'er the quiet churchyard creeping. One after another the gravestones began To heave and to open, and woman and man Rose up in their ghastly apparel!
Ho—ho for the dance!—and the phantoms outsprung In skeleton roundel advancing, The rich and the poor, and the old and the young, But the winding-sheets hinder'd their dancing. No shame had these revellers wasted and grim, So they shook off the cerements from body and limb, And scatter'd them over the hillocks.
They crook'd their thighbones, and they shook their long shanks, And wild was their reeling and limber; And each bone as it crosses, it clinks and it clanks Like the clapping of timber on timber. The warder he laugh'd, though his laugh was not loud; And the Fiend whisper'd to him—"Go, steal me the shroud Of one of these skeleton dancers."
He has done it! and backward with terrified glance To the sheltering door ran the warder; As calm as before look'd the moon on the dance, Which they footed in hideous order. But one and another seceding at last, Slipp'd on their white garments and onward they pass'd, And the deeps of the churchyard were quiet.
Still, one of them stumbles and tumbles along, And taps at each tomb that it seizes; But 'tis none of its mates that has done it this wrong, For it scents its grave-clothes in the breezes. It shakes the tower gate, but that drives it away, For 'twas nail'd o'er with crosses—a goodly array— And well was it so for the warder!
It must have its shroud—it must have it betimes— The quaint Gothic carving it catches, And upwards from story to story it climbs And scrambles with leaps and with snatches. Now woe to the warder, poor sinner, betides! Like a long-legged spider the skeleton strides From buttress to buttress, still upward!
The warder he shook, and the warder grew pale, And gladly the shroud would have yielded! The ghost had its clutch on the last iron rail Which the top of the watch-turret shielded. When the moon was obscured by the rush of a cloud, ONE! thunder'd the bell, and unswathed by a shroud, Down went the gaunt skeleton crashing!
* * * * *
A very pleasant piece of poetry to translate at midnight, as we did it, with merely the assistance of a dying candle!
After this feast of horrors, something more fanciful may not come amiss. Let us pass to a competition of flowers in the golden, or—if you will have it so—the iron age of chivalry. The meditations of a captive knight have been a cherished theme for poets in all ages. Richard the Lion-heart of England, and James I. of Scotland, have left us, in no mean verse, the records of their own experience. We all remember how nobly and how well Felicia Hemans portrayed the agony of the crusader as he saw, from the window of his prison, the bright array of his Christian comrades defiling through the pass below. We shall now take a similar poem of Goethe, but one in a different vein:—
THE FAIREST FLOWER.
THE LAY OF THE CAPTIVE EARL.
The Earl.—I know a floweret passing fair, And for its loss I pain me; Fain would I hence to seek its lair, But for these bonds that chain me. My woes are aught but light to me, For when I roam'd unbound and free That flower was ever near me.
Adown and round the castle's steep, I let my glances wander; But cannot from the dizzy keep, Descry it, there or yonder. Oh, he who'd bring it to my sight, Or were he knave or were he knight, Should be my friend for ever!
The Rose.—I blossom bright thy lattice near, And hear what thou hast spoken; 'Tis me—brave, ill-starr'd cavalier— The Rose, thou wouldst betoken! Thy spirit spurns the base, the low, And 'tis the queen of flowers, I know, That in thy bosom reigneth.
The Earl.—All honour to thy purple cheer, From swathes of verdure blowing; And so art though to maidens dear, As gold or jewels glowing. Thy wreaths adorn the fairest face, Yet art thou not the flower, whose grace In solitude I cherish.
The Lily.—A haughty place usurps the rose, And haughtier still doth covet; But where the lily meekly blows, Some gentle eye will love it. The heart that beats in faithful breast, And spotless is as my white vest, Must value me the highest.
The Earl.—Spotless and true of heart am I, And free from sinful failing, Yet must I here a captive lie, In loneliness bewailing. I see an image fair in you Of many maidens pure and true, Yet know I something dearer.
The Carnation.—That may thy warder's garden show In me, the bright carnation, Else would the old man tend me so With loving adoration? In perfect round my petals meet, And lifelong are with scent replete, And with a burning colour.
The Earl.—None may the sweet carnation slight, It is the gardener's pleasure, Now he unfolds it to the light, Now shields from it his treasure. But no—the flower for which I pant, No rare, no brilliant charms can vaunt, 'Tis ever meek and lowly.
The Violet.—Conceal'd and bending I retreat, Nor willingly had spoken, Yet that same silence, since 'tis meet, Shall now by me be broken. If I be that which fills thy thought Then must I grieve that I may not Waft every perfume to thee.
The Earl.—I love the violet, indeed, So modest in perfection, So gently sweet—yet more I need To soothe my heart's dejection. To thee alone the truth I'll speak, That not upon this rock so bleak Is to be found my darling.
In yon far vale, earth's truest wife Sits where the brooks run playing, And still must wear a woeful life Till I with her am straying. When a blue floweret by that spot She plucks, and says—FORGET-ME-NOT, I feel it here in bondage.
Yes, when two truly love, its might They own and feel in distance, So I, within this dungeon's night, Cling ever to existence. And when my heart is nigh distraught, If I but say—FORGET-ME-NOT, Hope burns again within me!
* * * * *
Such is constant love—the light even of the dungeon! Nor, to the glory of human nature be it said, is this a fiction. Witness Picciola—witness those letters, perhaps the most touching that were ever penned, from poor Camille Desmoulins to his wife, while waiting for the summons to the guillotine—witness, above all, that fragment signed Queret-Demery, which could not get beyond the sullen walls of the Bastile until fifty years after the agonizing request was preferred, when that torture-chamber of cruelty was razed indignantly to the ground—"If, for my consolation, Monseigneur would grant me, for the sake of God and the most blessed Trinity, that I could have news of my dear wife! were it only her name on a card to show that she is yet alive! It were the sweetest consolation I could receive; and I should for ever bless the greatness of Monseigneur." Poetry has no such eloquence as this.
But we must not digress from our author. Here are a few lines of the deepest feeling and truth, and most appropriate in the hours of wretchedness—
SORROW WITHOUT CONSOLATION.
O, wherefore shouldst thou try The tears of love to dry? Nay, let them flow! For didst thou only know, How barren and how dead Seems every thing below, To those who have not tears enough to shed, Thou'd'st rather bid them weep, and seek their comfort so.
* * * * *
The following stanzas, though rather inferior in merit, may be taken as a companion to the above. Their structure reminds us of Cowley.
COMFORT IN TEARS.
How is it that thou art so sad When others are so gay? Thou hast been weeping—nay, thou hast! Thine eyes the truth betray.
"And if I may not choose but weep, Is not my grief mine own? No heart was heavier yet for tears— O leave me, friend, alone!"
Come, join this once the merry band, They call aloud for thee, And mourn no more for what is lost, But let the past go free.
"O, little know ye in your mirth What wrings my heart so deep! I have not lost the idol yet For which I sigh and weep."
Then rouse thee and take heart! thy blood Is young and full of fire; Youth should have hope and might to win, And wear its best desire.
"O, never may I hope to gain What dwells from me so far; It stands as high, it looks as bright, As yonder burning star."
Why, who would seek to woo the stars Down from their glorious sphere? Enough it is to worship them, When nights are calm and clear.
"Oh, I look up and worship too— My star it shines by day— Then let me weep the livelong light The whilst it is away."
* * * * *
A thread from the distaff of Omphale may be stronger than the club of Hercules. Here is an inconstant Romeo escaped from his Juliet, and yet unable to shake off the magnetic spell which must haunt him to his dying day.
TO A GOLDEN HEART.
Pledge of departed bliss, Once gentlest, holiest token! Art thou more faithful than thy mistress is, That ever I must wear thee, And on my bosom bear thee, Although the bond that knit her soul with mine is broken? Why shouldest thou prove stronger? Short are the days of love, and wouldst thou make them longer?
Lili! in vain I shun thee! Thy spell is still upon me. In vain I wander through the distant forests strange, In vain I roam at will By foreign glade and hill, For, ah! where'er I range, Beside my heart, the heart of Lili nestles still!
Like a bird that breaks its twine, Is this poor heart of mine: It fain into the summer bowers would fly, And yet it cannot be Again so wholly free; For always it must bear The token which is there, To mark it as a thrall of past captivity.
* * * * *
Here, again, is Romeo before his escape. Poor Juliet! may we hope that she still has, and may long possess, the power
"To lure this tassel-gentle back again."
Death, indeed, were a gentler fate than desertion. Truth to say, Goethe would have made but a sorry Romeo, for he wanted the great and leading virtue of constancy; and yet who can tell what Romeo might have become, after six months' exile in Mantua? Juliet, we know, had taken the place of Rosaline. Might not some fairer and newer star have arisen to eclipse the image of the other? We will not credit the heresy. Far better that the curtain should fall upon the dying lovers, before one shadow of doubt or suspicion of infidelity has arisen to perplex the clear bright mirror of their souls!
WELCOME AND DEPARTURE.
To horse!—away o'er hill and steep! Into the saddle blithe I sprung; The eve was cradling earth to sleep, And night upon the mountains hung. With robes of mist around him set, The oak like some huge giant stood, While, with its hundred eyes of jet, Peer'd darkness from the tangled wood.
Amidst a bank of clouds, the moon A sad and troubled glimmer shed; The wind its chilly wings unclosed, And whistled wildly round my head. Night framed a thousand phantoms dire, Yet did I never droop nor start; Within my veins what living fire! What quenchless glow within my heart!
We met; and from thy glance a tide Of stifling joy flow'd into me: My heart was wholly by thy side, My every breath was breathed for thee. A blush was there, as if thy cheek The gentlest hues of spring had caught, And smiles so kind for me!—Great powers! I hoped, yet I deserved them not!
But morning came to end my bliss; A long, a sad farewell we took. What joy—what rapture in thy kiss, What depth of anguish in thy look! I left thee, dear! but after me Thine eyes through tears look'd from above; Yet to be loved—what ecstacy! What ecstacy, ye gods, to love!
Here are three small cabinet pictures of exquisite finish. We have laboured hard to do justice to them, for the smallest gems are the most difficult to copy; yet after all we have some doubts of our success.
Peace breathes along the shade Of every hill, The tree-tops of the glade Are hush'd and still; All woodland murmurs cease, The birds to rest within the brake are gone. Be patient, weary heart—anon, Thou, too, shalt be at peace!
* * * * *
A CALM AT SEA.
Lies a calm along the deep, Like a mirror sleeps the ocean, And the anxious steersman sees Round him neither stir nor motion.
Not a breath of wind is stirring, Dread the hush as of the grave— In the weary waste of waters Not the lifting of a wave.
* * * * *
The mists they are scatter'd, The blue sky looks brightly, And Eolus looses The wearisome chain! The winds, how they whistle! The steersman is busy— Hillio-ho, hillio-ho! We dash through the billows— They flash far behind us— Land, land, boys, again!
* * * * *
In one of Goethe's little operas, which are far less studied than they deserve, although replete with grace, melody, and humour, we stumbled upon a ballad which we at once recognised as an old acquaintance. Some of our readers may happen to recollect the very witty and popular ditty called "Captain Wedderburn's Courtship," a peculiar favourite amongst the lower orders in Scotland, but not, so far as we knew, transplanted from its native soil. Our surprise, therefore, was great when we discovered Captain Wedderburn dressed out in the garb of a Junker of the middle ages, and "bonny Girzie Sinclair," the Laird of Roslin's daughter, masquerading as a German Frauelein. The coincidence, if it be not plagiary, is so curious, that we have translated the ballad with a much freer hand than usual, confessing at the same time that the advantage, in point of humour and gallantry, is clearly on the side of the old Mid-Lothian ditty.
THE CAVALIER'S CHOICE.
It was a gallant cavalier Of honour and renown, And all to seek a ladye-love He rode from town to town. Till at a widow-woman's door He drew the rein so free; For at her side the knight espied Her comely daughters three.
Well might he gaze upon them, For they were fair and tall; Ye never have seen fairer In bower nor yet in hall. Small marvel if the gallant's heart Beat quicker in his breast: 'Twas hard to choose, and hard to lose— How might he wale the best?
"Now, maidens, pretty maidens mine, Who'll rede me riddles three? And she who answers best of all Shall be my own ladye!" I ween they blush'd as maidens do When such rare words they hear— "Now speak thy riddles, if thou wilt, Thou gay young Cavalier!"
"What's longer than the longest path? First tell ye that to me; And tell me what is deeper Than is the deepest sea? And tell me what is louder Than is the loudest horn? And tell me what is sharper Than is the sharpest thorn?
"And tell me what is greener Than greenest grass on hill? And tell me what is crueller Than a wicked woman's will?" The eldest and the second maid, They sat and thought awhile; But the youngest she look'd upward, And spoke with merry smile.
"O, love is surely longer far Than the longest paths that be; And hell, they say, is deeper Than is the deepest sea; And thunder it is louder Than is the loudest horn; And hunger it is sharper Than is the sharpest thorn; I know a deadly poison More green than grass on hill; And the foul fiend he is crueller Than any woman's will!" Scarce had the maiden spoken When the youth was by her side, And, all for what she answer'd him, Has claim'd her as his bride.
The eldest and the second maid, They ponder'd and were dumb; And there, perchance, are waiting yet Till another wooer come. Then, maidens, take this warning word, Be neither slow nor shy, And always, when a lover speaks, Look kindly and reply.
* * * * *
The following beautiful verses are from Wilhelm Meister. We shall venture to call them
He that with tears did never eat his bread, He that hath never lain through night's long hours, Weeping in bitter anguish on his bed— He knows ye not, ye dread celestial powers. Ye lead us onwards into life. Ye leave The wretch to fall, then yield him up, in woe, Remorse, and pain, unceasingly to grieve; For every sin is punished here below.
* * * * *
We shall close this number with a series of poems, in imitation, or rather after the manner of the antique, all of which possess singular beauty. No man understood or appreciated the exquisite delicacy of the Greek Anthology better than our author; and although we may, in several of the versions, have fallen short of the originals, we trust that enough still remains to convince the reader that we have not exaggerated their merit.
POEMS AFTER THE MANNER OF THE ANTIQUE.
Lightly doth the furrow fold the golden grain within its breast, Deeper shroud, old man, shall cover in thy limbs when laid at rest. Blithely plough and sow as blithely! Here are springs of mortal cheer, And when e'en the grave is closing, Hope is ever standing near.
* * * * *
Where the rose is fresh and blooming—where the vine and myrtle spring— Where the turtle-dove is cooing—where the gay cicalas sing— Whose may be the grave surrounded with such store of comely grace, Like a God-created garden? 'Tis Anacreon's resting-place. Spring and summer and the autumn pour'd their gifts around the bard, And, ere winter came to chill him, slept he safe beneath the sward.
Slumber, Sleep—they were two brothers, servants to the Gods above; Kind Prometheus lured them downwards, ever fill'd with earthly love; But what Gods could bear so lightly, press'd too hard on men beneath; Slumber did his brother's duty—Sleep was deepen'd into Death.
* * * * *
Eros! wherefore do I see thee, with the glass in either hand? Fickle God! with double measure wouldst thou count the shifting sand? "This one flows for parted lovers—slowly drops each tiny bead— That is for the days of dalliance, and it melts with golden speed."
* * * * *
Do not touch him—do not wake him! Fast asleep is Amor lying; Go—fulfil thy work appointed—do thy labour of the day. Thus the wise and careful mother uses every moment flying, Whilst her child is in the cradle—Slumbers pass too soon away.
* * * * *
Grant, O ye healing Nymphs, that have your haunts By rock and stream and lonely forest glade, The boon which, in their bosoms' silent depths, Your votaries crave! Unto the sad of heart Give comfort—knowledge unto him that doubts— Possession to the lover, and its joy. For unto you the Gods have given, what they Denied to man—to aid and to console All those soe'er who put their trust in you.
* * * * *
All the divine perfections, which, while ere Nature in thrift doled out 'mongst many a fair, She shower'd with open hand, thou peerless one, on thee! And she that was so wond'rously endow'd, To whom a throng of noble knees were bow'd, Gave all—Love's perfect gift—her glorious self, to me!
THE CHOSEN ROCK.
Here, in the hush and stillness of mid-noon, The lover lay and thought upon his love; With blithesome voice he spoke to me: "Be thou My witness, stone!—Yet, therefore, vaunt thee not, For thou hast many partners of my joy— To every rock that crowns this grassy dell, And looks on me and my felicity; To every forest-stem that I embrace In my entrancement as I roam along, Stand thou for a memorial of my bliss! All mingle with my rapture, and to all I lift a consecrating cry of joy. Yet do I lend a voice to thee alone, As culls the Muse some favourite from the crowd, And, with a kiss, inspires for evermore."
* * * * *
THE DEATH TRANCE.
Weep, maiden, here by Cupid's grave! He fell, Some nothing kill'd him—what I cannot tell. But is he really dead?—I swear not that, in sooth; A trifle—nothing—oft revives the youth.
* * * * *
Surely, surely, Amor nursed thee, songstress of the plaintive note, And, in fond and childish fancy, fed thee from his pointed dart. So, sweet Philomel, the poison sunk into thy guileless throat, Till, with all love's weight of passion, strike its notes to every heart.
* * * * *
A place to mark the Graces, when they come Down from Olympus, still and secretly, To join the Oreads in their festival, Beneath the light of the benignant moon. There lies the poet, watching them unseen, The whilst they chant the sweetest songs of heaven, Or, floating o'er the sward without a sound, Lead on the mystic wonder of the dance. All that is great in heaven, or fair on earth, Unveils its glories to the dreamer's eye, And all he tells the Muses. They again, Knowing that Gods are jealous of their own, Teach him, through all the passion of his verse, To utter these high secrets reverently.
How beautiful! A garden fair as heaven, Flowers of all hues, and smiling in the sun, Where all was waste and wilderness before. Well do ye imitate, ye gods of earth, The great Creator. Rock, and lake, and glade, Birds, fishes, and untamed beasts are here. Your work were all an Eden, but for this— Here is no man unconscious of a pang, No perfect Sabbath of unbroken rest.
* * * * *
What time Diogenes, unmoved and still, Lay in his tub, and bask'd him in the sun— What time Calanus clomb, with lightsome step And smiling cheek, up to his fiery tomb— What rare examples there for Philip's son To curb his overmastering lust of sway, But that the Lord of the majestic world Was all too great for lessons even like these!
* * * * *
Alas, that even in a heavenly marriage, The fairest lots should ne'er be reconciled! Psyche wax'd old, and prudent in her carriage, Whilst Cupid evermore remains the child.
* * * * *
O child of beauty rare— O mother chaste and fair— How happy seem they both, so far beyond compare! She, in her infant blest, And he in conscious rest, Nestling within the soft warm cradle of her breast! What joy that sight might bear To him who sees them there, If, with a pure and guilt-untroubled eye, He looked upon the twain, like Joseph standing by.
Wilt thou dare to blame the woman for her seeming sudden changes, Swaying east and swaying westward, as the breezes shake the tree? Fool! thy selfish thought misguides thee—find the man that never ranges; Woman wavers but to seek him—Is not then the fault in thee?
* * * * *
THE MUSE'S MIRROR.
To deck herself, the Muse, at early morn, Wander'd a-down a wimpling brook, to find Some glassy pool more quiet than the rest. On sped the stream, and ever as it ran It swept away her image, which did change With every bend and dimple of the wave. In wrath the Goddess turn'd her from the spot, Yet after her the brook, with taunting tongue, Did call—"'Tis plain thou wilt not see the truth All purely though my mirror shows it thee!" But she, meanwhile, stood with indifferent ear, By a far corner of the crystal lake, Delightedly surveying her fair form, And settling flowerets in her golden hair.
* * * * *
PH[OE]BUS AND HERMES.
The deep-brow'd lord of Delos once, and Maia's nimble-witted son, Contended eagerly by whom the prize of glory should be won; Hermes long'd to grasp the lyre,—the lyre Apollo hoped to gain, And both their hearts were full of hope, and yet the hopes of both were vain.
For Ares, to decide the strife, between them rudely dash'd in ire, And waving high his falchion keen, he cleft in twain the golden lyre. Loud Hermes laugh'd maliciously, but at the direful deed did fall The deepest grief upon the heart of Phoebus and the Muses all.
* * * * *
A NEW LOVE.
Love, not the simple youth that whilome wound Himself about young Psyche's heart, look'd round Olympus with a cold and roving eye, That had accustom'd been to victory. It rested on a Goddess, noblest far Of all that noble throng—a glorious star— Venus Urania. And from that hour He loved her. Ah! to his resistless power Even she, the holy one, did yield at last, And in his daring arms he held her fast. A new and beauteous Love from that embrace Had birth; that to the mother owed his grace And purity of soul; whilst from his sire He borrow'd all his passion, all his fire. Him ever where the gracious Muses be Thou'lt surely find. Such sweet society Is his delight, and his sharp-pointed dart Doth rouse within men's breasts the love of ART.
* * * * *
Our German Klopstock, if he had his will, Would bar us from the skirts of Pindus old. No more the classic laurel should be prized, But the rough leaflets of our native oak Alone should glisten in the poet's hair; Yet did himself, with spirit unreclaim'd From first allegiance to those early Gods, Lead up to Golgotha's most awful height With more than epic pomp the new Crusade. But let him range the bright angelic host On either hill—no matter. By his grave All gentle hearts should bow them down and weep. For where a hero and a saint have died, Or where a poet sang prophetical, Dying as greatly as they greatly lived, To give memorial to all after times, Of lofty worth and courage undismay'd; There, in mute reverence, all devoutly kneel, In homage of the thorn and laurel wreath, That were at once their glory and their pang!
* * * * *
THE SWISS ALP.
Yesterday thy head was brown, as are the flowing locks of love, In the bright blue sky I watch'd thee towering, giant-like, above. Now thy summit, white and hoary, glitters all with silver snow, Which the stormy night hath shaken from its robes upon thy brow; And I know that youth and age are bound with such mysterious meaning, As the days are link'd together, one short dream but intervening.
SPAIN AS IT IS.
There exists in this country a numerous class of persons who, if they were given their choice of an overland journey to India and back, or a ramble through Spain, occupying the same space of time, would prefer the former, as likely to be less inconvenient, and decidedly far less perilous. The wars and rumours of wars, revolutions, rebellions, skirmishes, and pronunciamentos, that newspapers have recorded during the last ten or twelve years, with an occasional particularly bloody and barbarous execution by way of interlude, have certainly not been calculated to reassure timid travellers; nor can we well wonder that, at the mere mention of an excursion beyond the Pyrenees, tourists are seized with a vertigo; and that visions, not only of rancid gaspachos and vermin-haunted couches, but of chocolate-complexioned ruffians with sugar-loaf hats, button-bedecked jackets, fierce mustaches, and lengthy escopetas, peering out of the gloomy recesses of a cork wood, or from among the silvery foliage of an olive grove, pass before the eyes of their imagination. Dangers often appear greater at a distance than upon close examination; many a phantom of ghastly aspect proves upon inspection to be but a turnip-faced goblin after all: and we suspect that if some of the timorous would adventure themselves upon Spanish soil, they might find their precious persons far safer than they had anticipated; and discover that they were in the hands neither of Caffres nor cannibals, but amongst a courteous and generous people, who, if occasionally a little too disposed to slit each other's weasands, on the other hand are very rarely forgetful of the laws of hospitality, or of the kindness and protection to which travellers in a foreign land have a fair claim. We do not mean to recommend Spain as a desirable travelling ground for those adventurous English dames, whom we have occasionally met journeying by coachfuls in France, Germany, and other peaceable lands, unsquired and unescorted save by their waiting-maids: to them the encounter of rateros, salteadores, or other varieties of Spanish banditti, might be in various respects disagreeable; but for men, who, without leaving Europe, may wish to visit other scenes than those in which every Cockney tourist has wandered, we know of few expeditions more interesting than one into the interior of Spain. Fine scenery, interesting monuments, associations historic, classic, and poetical, and—which to our thinking is still preferable—a people who, in spite of Gallo and Anglo manias, still possess great originality of character and customs, are there to be met with. We cannot do better than refer those persons who would like additional evidence on the subject, to the volumes named at foot, in which they will see how a man possessed of prudence, good sense, and good temper, may visit some of the wildest and least frequented parts of the Peninsula, not only without injury or annoyance, but with considerable pleasure and profit.
Captain Widdrington's journey to Spain, in the Spring of 1843, had, as he tells us, a twofold object. He was desirous of observing the effects of the numerous changes that have taken place in that country since the death of Ferdinand; and he, at the same time, thought that his assistance and previous knowledge of the country and people, would be useful to a scientific friend, Dr Daubeny, who had been commissioned by the Agricultural Society to examine the formation of phosphorite in Estremadura. This mineral, it was imagined, might be advantageously substituted for bones as manure.
The travellers had sketched out their route beforehand, and seem to have adhered very closely to the plan they had laid down. Proceeding from Bayonne to Madrid, after a short stay in that capital they struck into Estremadura; visited the vein of phosphorite, and explored several interesting districts, into which few travellers penetrate; thence to the quicksilver mines at Almaden, and to various iron mines and founderies, through Seville, Ronda, Malaga, and Granada, and back to Madrid. Here Captain Widdrington separates from his companion, and continues his peregrinations alone, through the kingdom of Leon, the Asturias, and Galicia. In his narrative of this somewhat extensive ramble, the gallant captain displays a very respectable degree of knowledge on a considerable variety of subjects. Agriculture, geology, natural history, the resources of Spain, and the best mode of applying them, political intrigues and changes, the strange and apparently inexplicable ups and downs of public men, are all touched upon in turn: and if the earlier portion of his work is worthy of a member of the learned societies to which he belongs, the latter part is no less creditable to his habits of observation, and to the soundness of his judgment.
One of the first things that appear to have struck Captain Widdrington on arriving at Madrid, was the great activity in the building department—an activity arising chiefly from the sequestration of the church property. Convents were being pulled down, or at least altered so as to render them suitable to other purposes. The ground on which one had stood had been converted into a public walk—a chapel had been replaced by a covered market. The large convent of St Thomas was the headquarters of the national guard; while that of the Trinity had been appropriated to the reception of works of art, the spoils of the other convents. One had been sold to a private speculator, who let it out in chambers; another was the refuge of military invalids; a third, the convent of St Catalina—which was set fire to while the Duke of Angouleme was attending, in the year 1823, a mass celebrated in honour of his successful campaign—had been demolished, and a building for the senate and deputies was erecting on its site. The names of many of the streets had been altered to those of various heroes of Spanish liberty; such as Porlier, Lacy, the Empecinado, and others. The street of the Alcala had been rebaptized after the Duque de la Victoria; but no doubt, as the Captain observes, by this time on a change tout cela.
Of the Countess of Mina, who was then aya, or governess, to the queen, some interesting details are given by Captain Widdrington, who had known her and her husband when they were living in exile at Plymouth subsequently to the affairs of 1823. Madame Mina appears to be a person of very superior powers of mind, far better qualified to superintend the female department of a Spanish queen's education, than the bigoted and afrancesada dowager-marchioness who preceded her in the office, and in the selection of whom Maria Christina, with her usual selfishness, had probably thought more of the political principles and opinions in which she wished Isabella to be brought up, than of her daughter's future welfare and happiness. The universal complaint of the Spanish or national party in the time of Christina was, that the queen's education was neglected, or, it should rather be said, misconducted. The queen-dowager's French tendencies were more than suspected. Of course, when the popular party became in the ascendant, and Madame Mina received the appointment, alike unsolicited and unexpected, of governess to the queen, the afrancesados set up a yell of horror and consternation. Her husband's humble birth, her character, even her piety, and the mourning habit she had worn ever since her husband's death, were made matters of reproach to her. But though Mina had been born a tiller of the earth, he had died a grandee of Spain, ennobled yet more by his patriotism and great qualities than he could be by the tinsel of a title; the character of the countess was that of a high-minded and virtuous woman; and as to the accusation of being a santarona, or affectedly pious, it was no less unjust than malicious. Here is Captain Widdrington's portrait of her:—
"Her stature is rather below the middle size, and her person stout, with an abundance of the blackest hair simply dressed; eyes very large, dark and fuller than usual, even in this classic land of them, and beaming with intelligence. Her forehead, and the lower part of her face, are remarkable for their development, and an admirable study for the phrenologists, who would pronounce them models, as indicating firmness of character. Her constant costume is the deepest black, which completely covers her person; and when she accepted her appointment, it was stipulated that she should never be required to lay it aside. The only ornament she wore was a simple but rather massive gold chain and cross, which had a singularly good effect in relieving the mass of deep black; and her manner, noble and serious, bordering on the severe at first sight, made her the beau-ideal of a lady abbess."
During the celebrated attack upon the palace at Madrid, on the 7th of October 1841, the countess gave proof of energy, courage, and presence of mind, worthy of Mina's widow, and of one who supplied the place of mother to the queen and infanta of Spain. A most interesting account of the transactions of that eventful night is to be found in the third chapter of Captain Widdrington's book; and as he is indebted for the details to Madame Mina herself, it is no doubt the most accurate that has appeared before the public. The alabarderos, or halberdiers, who formed the body-guard of the queen, and whose post was in the avenues leading to the royal apartments, consisted of two hundred sergeants, picked from the whole army, and placed under the command of a colonel and lieutenant-colonel, who had the rank of lieutenant and sergeant in this sacred band. "By the regulations, one-third of this little corps ought always to have been on duty; but, 'Cosas de Espana,' when the disturbance broke out, there were only the two officers and seventeen privates present! The rest were in the town, at supper, or various other engagements." And on this handful of men devolved the duty of defending the queen against the attack of as many companies as they numbered muskets. The first alarm was given by vivas and other noises in the quadrangle of the palace. Colonel Dulce, the commander of the halberdiers, descended the stairs to enquire the cause of the uproar, and was met on the landing-place by a detachment of the Princesa regiment marching up. He ordered them to halt; they opened fire in reply. Colonel Dulce retreated to the guard-room, and the skirmish began. A double flight of steps leads up from one of the principal entrances of the palace to this guard-room, of which the door is of considerable size, and covered by a mampara or moveable stuffed screen, similar to those used in churches abroad. The alabarderos left the mampara in its place, opening the door no more than was absolutely necessary to fire through. The assailants took up their station at the bottom of the stairs, and blazed away, vigorously replied to from the sala de armas. The sides of the doorway and the mampara were riddled, but the assailants could only fire at a guess, their opponents being completely concealed behind the screen; and on the other hand, a stone balustrade at the top of the staircase between the two flights and the angle of the floor, protected the insurgents. The latter, no doubt, thought the whole guard was at its post, so steady and incessant was the fire the alabarderos kept up. To approach the guard-room door was certain death. General Concha, the same who the other night danced the third quadrille with Isabel at a court ball, taking the pas of the Spanish grandees there assembled, was present at this treasonable attack, at the head of the Princesa regiment, in plain clothes, but with a drawn sword. About midnight (the firing had begun at half-past seven—what were the authorities about all that time?) Diego Leon, the scapegoat of the affair, made his appearance in his usual dashing attire, a showy hussar uniform, braided, belted, and befrogged, and took command of the proceedings. "According to his own account, he went to the foot of the great staircase, and called to the alabarderos to discontinue firing, lest they should alarm the queen!" but the noise of the musketry was such, that he could not make himself heard, even with the aid of a trumpet! Things, however, had not gone as the conspirators wished; the gallant defence of the halbardiers, which they had not reckoned upon, had caused them to lose much time, and after a short consultation Concha and Leon took to flight. Concha hid himself under the dry arch of a bridge, and afterwards took refuge at the Danish embassy, where he passed a few days, and was then conveyed from another embassy (French, of course) to headquarters at Paris. His caution in wearing plain clothes saved him; while poor Leon, who thought, as he afterwards said, that uniform was the proper costume for the occasion, was taken at Colmenar, a few leagues from Madrid. Captain Widdrington says, with much truth, that nothing could be more characteristic of the two men than their different mode of acting in this trifling particular.
In the whole affair, Concha was the real director and manager, although he sheltered himself behind the Count of Belascoain, who was put forward as being a popular man, especially with the army. A braver or more dashing cavalry officer than Leon could hardly be found, but he was of the wrong stuff for a conspirator; his brains, as the Spaniards used to say in rather a coarse proverb, were in the wrong place. But who that had ever known or even seen him, could help regretting him, the chivalrous, the high-hearted soldier, as much loved by his friends as he was dreaded by his foes! His death was, doubtless, necessary as an example, and should not be laid at the door of the Spanish government of the day, but at that of the unprincipled and selfish faction that made a tool of him. We are surprised to find, by Captain Widdrington's book, that the petitions for his pardon, sent for signature to the national guard of Madrid, were torn across and returned, the only name affixed to them being that of Captain Guardia, who was then dying of wounds received on the night of the insurrection. This speaks plainly as to the general feeling in Madrid concerning the necessity of Leon's sentence being put into execution, the national guard consisting of ten thousand men, who represent every shade of political opinion.
While the fighting was going on, the Countess of Mina was doing her best to shield the queen and her sister from the bullets of the insurgents, who surrounded the royal apartments on three sides, and seem to have been tolerably careless where they sent their lead. A shot came into the room where the queen and her sister lay in bed. They were frightened, and got up, and the attendants placed mattresses on the floor, in the angle of an alcove, upon which the children lay down, and after some time fell asleep. "The poor children were hungry, and asked for supper, but there was nothing to give them; and from two in the afternoon of the 7th, till eight in the morning of the 8th, they did not taste food." What a curious picture is this! Isabel de Borbon, queen of Spain and the Indies, lying on a mattress upon the floor, terrified and a-hungered, her governess, the widow of an ex-peasant and guerilla, keeping watch beside her; nineteen intrepid soldiers defending her against troops sent by her own mother to attack her palace and carry off herself!
Nor was this all. There was a private staircase leading from the entresol of the palace to the royal apartments; and although it had been blocked up some time previously, the rebels were aware of its existence, and were heard sawing at the barrier that closed it. "At this time, the countess told me, she felt it her duty to rouse the queen and prepare her for the worst, dictating to her the manner in which those who should enter were to be addressed. The intention was, when they should arrive at the inner door, to open it for fear of greater violence, and admit them." If the conspirators could have got possession of the queen's person, their plan was to wrap her in a cloak and mount her behind one Fulgosio, who had been a colonel in the Carlist service, but was included in the convention of Bergara. In this Tartar fashion she was to have been carried off to the north of Spain.
Captain Widdrington evidently considers that this daring attempt on the part of Christina's faction, as well as subsequent almost equally strange events that have occurred in Spain, were in great measure concerted and organized in France, the money proceeding partly from the French treasury and partly from the coffers of Christina—coffers which she had taken excellent care to fill during the period of her regency. We have been rather amused at the diplomatic caution displayed by the Captain when alluding to French intrigues. The French are always "our neighbours," and Louis Philippe "a certain personage." His meaning, however, is plain enough, and we fully agree with him, that French gold and French counsels and influence have been at the bottom of most of the disturbances that have taken place in Spain since the year 1840. But enough, for the present, of plots and plotters; we shall perhaps find more of them before we bid our author farewell in Vigo Bay. At present we will follow him to the mines of Almaden, whither he betakes himself after rambling through a considerable portion of Estremadura, one of the most fertile, but neglected and thinly peopled, of Spanish provinces. "Nothing," he says, "is wanted but a good government to assist the bounteous hand with which the gifts of Providence have been showered on this beautiful region." But, alas! instead of a thriving peasantry and well-tilled soil, what does he meet with? Despoblados, or deserts, with here and there some wretched villages, few and far between, and from time to time a cortijo, or farm-house, with its cultivated patch; but the general face of the country is zaral, ground covered with the cistus, numerous varieties of that beautiful plant abounding in the province. Captain Widdrington mentions four sorts he found in flower—the gum cistus, a large white species without spots, a smaller white, and the purple kind common in English gardens. Furze, then just breaking into flower, and retama, or brooms, vary the collection; interesting enough, no doubt, to the botanist, but a melancholy sight when one reflects on the far better purpose to which this fertile territory might be applied.
The roads through these districts are, as might be expected, execrable, intersected by large open ditches to carry off the water; and subsequently to each journey the diligence requires extensive repairs. After Truxillo, however, public conveyances are no longer to be found, and mules supply their place. On these the travellers reach Logrosan, where is situate the vein of phosphorite that it was one of the objects of their journey to visit. Four mule-loads of the mineral are taken as a sample, and forwarded to Seville; and this done, an excursion is made to the famous sanctuary of Guadelupe, in the sacristy at which place are some of the finest paintings of Zurbaran. Not the least agreeable portions of Captain Widdrington's book are his descriptions of the churches and other edifices he visits, and of the pictures and carvings they contain. Details of that kind are often apt to be dry and wearisome; but these are done con amore, and varied by reflections and criticisms, of which many are very interesting.
It had been a matter of deliberation with Captain Widdrington, upon commencing his wanderings in the Peninsula, whether it were advisable to be armed or not. The usual advice one gets upon this subject on entering Spain, is to take neither arms nor money, or at least no more of the latter than is absolutely necessary for the journey. By being unarmed, the traveller is said to avoid risk of ill treatment at the hands of any banditti he may chance to encounter, and who, if they see him with weapons, are apt either to give him a volley from some ambuscade, or to murder him for having thought of resistance. Captain Widdrington's theory is different. He calculates that, as the majority of Spanish robbers are rateros, or ignoble and dastardly cut-purses, who prowl about by twos and threes, it is just as well to be provided with a few fire-arms, the mere sight of which may make all the difference between being robbed or not. He has accordingly armed himself, his companion, and attendant with muskets; and between Logrosan and Almaden he finds the advantage of having done so. While passing through a wild and broken country, with no road, and scarcely any visible track, he perceives three suspicious-looking customers descending through a field to the further side of a thicket which he is about to traverse. He calls up his companions, who are a little in the rear—they look to their arms, and prepare for a brush. If the three men that have been seen are alone, the travellers are a match for them; but they may be only the van or rearguard of a larger force.
"After waiting a little time in silence, there was no appearance of their emerging from the thicket, which was very close; and, as it would have been imprudent to enter it, we called out to them to advance. They were still invisible, but a voice answered—'Come on, we shall not meddle with you.' We then rode through, and found them on the banks of a pretty stream that flowed through the ravine, preparing to breakfast; some beautiful bread, far better than any we could find in the villages, being part of their intended repast. The man who had answered was nearest to the ford, and the others a little higher up. Of course we passed them at the 'recover,' and the simple salutation of Vaya vd. con Dios! was interchanged. Had we omitted exchanging this compliment, even with the people we were now dealing with, we should have risked being thought unpolished."
There is something characteristic and Gil Blas-like about this—Spanish all over. Pass we on to the Almaden mines, of which there is a detailed and very interesting account.
The quicksilver mines of Almaden are one of the sure cards of the Spanish finance minister, and during the late war, especially, were often a great resource to the poverty-stricken government. When other sources of revenue failed, there were always to be found speculators willing to treat for the quicksilver contract; and these mines, like the tobacco and other monopolies, and the Havanna revenue, have helped many a Spanish minister in his moment of greatest need. Of course, as the usual demand was money down, the bargains were frequently made at great disadvantage to the seller; and, once made, the consumer is entirely at the mercy of the contractor—the Almaden mines producing a very large portion of all the quicksilver known to exist in the world. Madame Calderon de la Barca, in her Life in Mexico, alludes to this when speaking of the unsuccessful mining speculations in that country, where "heaps of silver lie abandoned, because the expense of acquiring quicksilver renders it wholly unprofitable to extract it." That lady further observes, that quicksilver has been paid for at one hundred and fifty dollars per quintal in real cash, when the same quantity was given at credit by the Spanish government for fifty dollars. Madame Calderon is good authority; but we suspect that the cause of such a vast difference between the price given and demanded by the contractor, must have been the cash advances required by the Spanish government. "The contract once made," says Captain Widdrington, "it is clear that, excepting any qualms of conscience the lessee may be influenced by, there is no check upon his cupidity. The temptation to charge exorbitant prices is increased by the habit of the government requiring large sums to be paid down. This practice, which was unavoidable during the civil war, when it frequently produced the only ready money they could lay their hands on, has continued, and must still do so, unless a financial change take place."
Owing to this state of things, the profit to the government is only about L75,000 per annum; although we are told that the price has been raised, in a few years, from thirty-four to eighty-four dollars the quintal—the price paid to the government we presume. The contract was taken in 1843 by those great accapareurs of good things, the Rothschilds. Of course, as long as the civil war lasted, if the contractors had to give money in advance, the risk they ran entitled them to a large rate of profit. Had Don Carlos got the upper hand before they had reimbursed themselves, their lien upon the mines would have been so much waste paper; or even, without that, they might have been exposed to considerable loss and delay had Messrs Cabrera, Balmaseda, Palillos, or others of the same kidney, chosen to take a turn in that direction, carry off the workmen, destroy or damage the works, or drown out the mines. Gomez did pay Almaden a visit when he made the tour of Spain with his expeditionary corps. He burned a part of the town and plundered all he could; but did no harm to the mine—which was either very foolish or very considerate of him.
There is room for much curious speculation as to the effect which the increased and increasing value of quicksilver may have upon the monetary system of Europe, especially in France and other countries where silver is the legal currency, and gold very little used on account of the premium on it. It has been seen above, that, in Mexico, silver is not worth refining, owing to the dearness of the mineral required for the purpose. Unless something be discovered as a substitute for quicksilver, the same result will, in all probability, ensue in other mining districts; and the natural consequence will be the diminished use of silver as a circulating medium, and the increased employment of gold, the more so as the supply of the latter metal has of late years been greatly augmented—a great deal now coming from Asiatic Russia—while its wear and tear are very small. This change would not arise from a scarcity of quicksilver, the quantity and quality of which, at Almaden at least, improve as the miners get deeper into the vein; and, moreover, the portion extracted is limited to 20,000 quintals, or weights of 105 pounds English. "All the works are executed in a truly royal manner; and so capacious and enlarged are the views carried out in the management, that they only take away about one-half of the mineral, leaving the other as a legacy to the future possessors of it, and to provide a supply in case of unforeseen accidents in the workings." There are other uses besides the refining of silver to which quicksilver is applied; and should the contractors continue to raise the price of the latter, the consequence must necessarily be an increase in the value of the former, and a diminution in its consumption.
There are five thousand men employed at the Almaden establishment, and most of those who work in the mines suffer, as may be supposed, in their health, from the unwholesome exhalations. In the summer, when they are most liable to be affected in that way, work is suspended, the labourers retire to their respective provinces to recruit, and generally return in the autumn, restored by their native air. Temperance, cleanliness, and a milk-diet appear to be the best preservatives from the pernicious effects of the mercury-infected atmosphere.
Captain Widdrington does not visit Catalonia, which we regret; for we should like to have had the result of his observations on that turbulent and troublesome province, to which he once or twice alludes. It must truly be a difficult thing to legislate for a country split into so many conflicting interests—fancied interests many of them—as Spain is. The Catalonians, for instance, have got a notion that they are cotton-manufacturers—a notion which their northern neighbours do all in their power to nourish and encourage. Of course, the French would be much annoyed to see Spanish ports opened to cotton goods at a reasonable duty, until such time (if it ever arrives) as they can compete successfully with English manufacturers. It suits their book much better to have a prohibition, or what amounts to such, imposed on all foreign cottons. The Pyrenees are high, but it is a long line of frontier from Port Vendres to Bayonne, and the deuce is in it if they cannot manage to smuggle more French calicoes and percales, and suchlike commodities into Spain, than would ever be taken by the Spaniards were those articles admitted at a reasonable duty, which would put a stop to smuggling by rendering it unprofitable. At present there is a regular tariff of smugglers' charges for passing goods, so much per cent on the value, according to the bulk and nature of the articles; and the agents of this traffic abound in Bayonne, Oleron, Perpignan, and all the frontier towns. The idea prevailing in Spain, that Espartero intended entering into a treaty of commerce with England, made him enemies of the Catalonians, and indeed of the majority of the mercantile classes, most of the members of which are more or less mad about the importance of Spanish manufactures, or, at any rate, they seem to be nearly unanimous in their wish to prohibit foreign goods. It is impossible to persuade them, so pigheaded are they, that it would be better to admit foreign manufactures at a fair duty, than to have their markets deluged with smuggled ones that pay no duty at all. "To these miserable manufactures, only capable of producing about one-half of what is required for the consumption of the kingdom," (and that half, be it observed, of inferior quality, and at vastly higher prices than the same merchandise could be imported for,) "is the interest of the landed proprietors and commercial class, as well as that of the entire community, sacrificed."
These manufacturing madmen, the Catalonians, are the plague-spot of the Peninsula. Obstinate, fiery, and selfish, they think only of themselves, and of what they consider their interests, petty and miserable as the latter are compared to those of the rest of Spain. The real interests of the country are obvious to any but prejudiced understandings. It is a land flowing with milk and honey, or, what is far better, with wine and oil; abounding in valuable products, of which the export might be vastly increased by admitting the manufactures of countries possessing, perhaps, a less-favoured soil and climate, but a more industrious population. Instead of making bad calicoes at a high price, let the Spaniards set to work to clear and plant their despoblados—let them improve their system of agriculture, their mode of producing oil; let them cut canals and make roads, and get something like decent communications between towns and provinces. The irrigation of the soil in Spain is also a matter of great importance, and which, in many parts of the country, is at present sadly neglected. There are vast districts that remain uninhabited and barren, solely because people will not build or live where they are beyond a certain distance from water; districts where every thing is parched and dry for the greater part of the year, and where the land, although rich in its nature, becomes worthless from excessive drought. The system of Artesian wells might, we are persuaded, be introduced to great advantage in Spain; and for such, as well as for canals, railways, and similar improvements, abundance of foreign capital would be forthcoming, if—and here is the sticking point—Spaniards would only show a disposition to remain quiet, and turn their attention to the arts of peace, instead of ruining their country, wasting their blood, and degrading the national character, by all these unmeaning and unprofitable pronunciamentos and skirmishings. It is probably not very important at this moment who rules over the Spaniards, provided the government have power and energy enough to keep them from cutting each others' throats, and to prevent their getting into a confirmed habit of revolutions and rebellions. "In all the larger towns of Spain," we quote Captain Widdrington, "there is a crowd of idlers, characters with little or no occupation, frequenters of theatres and cafes, great readers of journals, and considerable politicians, pretenders to small places, excessively ignorant, and ready to join in any movement provided it be attended with little personal risk to themselves. A large portion of this class took a very active part in opposing the government, and were delighted to figure in juntas, or fill other analogous situations, giving them a momentary importance, and possibly a few dollars at the public expense." And this is one of the great causes of the unsettled state of Spain, the immense number of idlers. Wars and revolutions, producing an unflourishing state of trade and agriculture, have discouraged Spaniards, during the last thirty or forty years, from putting their children to trades or professions. "There is no knowing how long this war may last," they used to say during the Carlist contest; "and as long as it lasts, there is no good to be done in Spain." So, instead of bringing up their sons to work, they just let them live on from day to day, gossiping and smoking; and at the present moment there are many hundred thousand young and middle-aged men of the lower and middle classes, especially the latter, who are idlers by profession, and exactly correspond to Captain Widdrington's description. These gentry have nothing particular to lose by any political rumpus, and they flatter themselves they may gain; besides, they cannot be always playing monte or taking the siesta; and even if they could, a change is sometimes agreeable. Now and then, too, they get tired of hearing Aristides called the Just—that is a very common thing with Spaniards—some mischievous political agent comes amongst them, they are soon excited, get hold of an old musket or rusty fowling-piece, chuck up their sombreros, cry viva la Libertad! and rush about the town uttering gritos; and in a few hours, and before they have any clear idea of what they have been doing, they are told that they are heroes and patriots, that "Spaniards never shall be slaves," and all the rest of the humbug and claptrap that revolutionary agitators always have upon their tongue's tip. The poor idiots, fizzing and boiling over with their fire-new enthusiasm, aimless and causeless as it is, are in ecstasies for about a week, or until they discover, what is pretty often the case, that instead of being better off, they have exchanged King Log for King Stork. The fact is, Spaniards are not at present fit for a mild and constitutional government. Espartero, who had got the country into something like a state of respectability, fell into the error of imagining that they were; and such was in great measure the cause of his overthrow. The iron and remorseless rule of a Narvaez will perhaps suit them better, and of a certainty it is what a large portion of them richly deserve.
To those persons who wish to understand what many have doubtless found rather incomprehensible; namely, the causes, immediate and remote, that led to the deposition of the Duque de la Victoria and the triumph of the Moderado party—we recommend the attentive perusal of Captain Widdrington's book, especially the chapter entitled, "On the Pronunciamentos and Fall of the Regency." That chapter is a very complete manual of the Spanish politics of the day, in a lucid and simple form; and we were much pleased to find our own theories and opinions on the subject confirmed by an eyewitness, and by so shrewd an observer as Captain Widdrington. He traces the share that each party and class in Spain took in the recent changes; and proves satisfactorily enough, what every one who is acquainted with Spanish character and feelings must have already been pretty certain of, that the revolution in question was not a national one, but the result of intrigue, bribery, and delusion—the work of a faction, aided by foreign gold. The ill-judged selection of Lopez for minister, and the still more injudicious act of agreeing to a programme which he was afterwards compelled to repudiate, were the fatal mistakes made by Espartero, who was placed in a situation of extreme difficulty by his wish to govern constitutionally. "It is impossible not to respect and admire the firmness with which, to the very last, he carried through the principle, sacrificing his station and rank to it; but, as far as the interests of his country were concerned, no greater mistake was ever made in government than the selection of Lopez." It is customary in Spain for a new minister to make public his programme, or plan of campaign—but this is considered a mere matter of form. In that of Lopez, however, amidst the usual commonplaces, one article of vital importance had insinuated itself; it was that of the amnesty, "which was so speciously made out as completely to answer the purpose for which it was intended, that of paving the way for bringing back the afrancesado leaders who were engaged in the attempt to carry off the Queen, in October 1841." It was not deemed sufficient to recall the regent's mortal enemies; an attempt was made to isolate him, by dismissing his most faithful friends, even to the distinguished officer who acted as his private secretary, and who now bears him company in his exile. Espartero naturally kicked at this—as who would not in his place?—dismissed Lopez, and dissolved the Chamber. But the people, especially those troublesome fellows the Andalusians and Valencians, had got the fraternizing fit strong upon them, and were mad after the programme. Juntas were formed—pronunciamentos made—and misrule was again the order of the day.