Page images

SAYINGS OF LORD MONBODDO. The science of metaphysics must always keep, with the enlightened few, a rank above all those that treat of inferior subjects, to that greatest one of all, the operations of mind and spirit. He who has never studied the philosophy of his own mind, is as much inferior to him who understands it, as the lubberly passenger in a ship is to the enlightened navigator; neither, it is true, can control the winds, nor clear away clouds from the stars; but without any such visionary powers as these, there remains an immense difference between being driven through one's course ignorantly and incuriously by impulses of whose nature and limits we have no conception, and profiting by our intelligence of the same impulses, and when we cannot suit them to our purposes, accommodating our purposes to them—what matters it, so they are effected. Most of us walk in the dark in regard to every thing that concerns our own powers and better natures. We are lost in absolute fogs of ignorance, to the extent of not believing in the existence of knowledge, and of not appreciating it when others discover it. Yet the search should be made for its own sake, for the improvement and exercise it is fitted to give our perceptive faculties and reasoning powers, even if the benefit ended there. It would be easy to cite many examples of this effect. We shall content ourselves with one, which will put this matter in a striking point of view, as showing how one man's mind at least, has arrived at a pitch of acuteness, which most or all of our readers probably must be content to admire, and can scarcely hope to reach. We mean Lord Monboddo-from whose work, on the origin and progress of language, book 1, ch. 8, we take the following extract:

“ Plato said that the subject of opinion was neither the To ov, or the thing itself, nor was it the to unor or nothing, but something betwixt these two. This may appear, at first sight, a little mysterious and hard to be understood; but like other things of that kind in Plato, when examined to the bottom, it has a very clear meaning, and explains the nature of opinion very well. For, as he says, every man that opines must opine something. The subject of opinion, therefore, is not nothing -at the same time it is not the thing itself, but something betwixt the two."

Lord Monboddo says, he knows a man who would spend days together in reading music, without applying to it either voice or instrument, and took great delight in it. The music, Monboddo says, was intellectual.



Yon mountain's side hath a crystal stream,

Which laughs along in the sunlight free,
And its rippling course and the splintering gleam

Of its diamond falls are a joy to see.
Shall we turn it aside from its sparkling way,

To slake for a summer a garden's thirst,
That buds may have life, and that flow'rets gay
In its fostering dews may be born and nurs’d.

Oh no, philosopher, no,
Utility must not mislead us so.

We must always strive

To preserve alive
A little romance in this world below.

There's a statue beneath yon humble shrine,

'Tis the Queen of the Graces in virgin gold, Instinct with a beauty, as like divine,

As poet or painter could feign of old. Shall her smiling and gentle presence be

Coined down like a common and sordid thing, To bear to the ends of the earth and

sea, The stupid impress of a foolish king.

Oh no, philosopher, no, &c.

There's another shrine where the votary sues

To the glorious life of that sculptured form; And where in the light that her smiles diffuse,

The iciest bosoms grow soft and warm. Shall the fatal spell of the parson drown

In the rights of one mortal, the hopes of all. Shall the queen of the belles lay the sceptre down, And yield to a homely domestic thrall.

Oh no, philosopher, no.
Utility must not mislead us so.

We must always strive

To preserve alive
A little romance in this world below.

Supposed to be the only one now extant.


TU'er das Dichten will verstehen
Muss in 's Land der Dichtung gehen
C'er den Dichter will bersteheri
Muss in Dichters Lande gehen.

Gedichte sind gemahlte fensterscheiben
Sieht man vom markt in die Birche binein
Da ist alles dunkel und düster

Bommt aber nur einmal herein
Begrüsst die heilige capelle
Da ist's auf einmal farbig helle
Geschicht und Zierrath glänzt in Schnelle
Bedeuteud wirkt ein edler schein.

İf any one talent in this world of mediocrity be more decidedly rare than the rest, it is the talent of translation, especially of poetry; or rather to carry the idea fairly out, it may be questioned whether any such thing as translating poetry, be possible at all. A good poem in one language, is often the exciting cause of a good or bad poem in another, which last shall be called a translation, as Pope's Iliad for instance, is called a translation of Homer; but does not every schoolboy of any cleverness know, that though you may translate Homer's Iliad or his Odyssey for ever and ever, yet you never can translate him. Talma may take off Alexander, that's one step down, and a travelled ape may serve you up an imitation of Talma, that's another, and that brings you to about the distance from the conqueror, that most translations keep from their originals; for most of them are made under the double disadvantage, of an imperfect apprehension by the translator himself of the real genius of his author, and of an imperfect fashion of rendering what he does apprehend. Let somebody attitudinize to show you what the Apollo Belvedere is; or the Venus de Medicis, allow for their defects of conception and memory, their faults of form, and the disadvantages of “pantaloons and boddices,” and then say whether such an exhibition satisfies or diminishes at all your desire to study with your own eyes those wonders of the chisel. If it does not, then

never excuse your indolence in not learning languages upon any substitute you can get for knowing them by borrowing the knowledge of others; but above all, never depreciate nor disparage the untasted fruits, but suppress your envy when those who can taste, boast of them.

The most remarkable poem of the present age, beyond all doubt or competition, is Gathe's Faust. There is but one voice on this matter among those who know it; but between these and those who do not know it, there is a gulph fixed, so that those who would pass into the class of the initiated cannot, except by an earnest application to the German; for I take it for granted few are ignorant of that work, who are not also ignorant of the language in which it is written. I would fain say something by way of insisting on the inducements to this study, and with this view shall attempt to give an account of some of the most striking passages in Fau t, with occasional English versions of some stanzas, for whicu versions I claim the indulgence I have claimed for translators in general, to wit, that of being considered to have failed in an impossible undertaking. The ground work of the poem is the old superstition of Dr. Faust; that matters little, for in the progress of thinking in the present age no one cares much for the mere story, the canvas or skeleton of a work. We look for the author-for the poet-for opinions—allusions-satiric-reflections-originality of remark not incident-for beautiful expressions, lively conversations, and play of fancy—and where these are, we care not whether the story be one handed down from Boccaccio or the Queen of Navarre, and a hundred times repeated, or a new fiction just born of the author's brain-indeed the last seems more like being introduced to strangers, and the chances are that it will therefore interest us less. The nature and character, truth and application of the sentiments and incidents strike us more forcibly when the parties concerned are our old familiar friends, than they can among new faces, and we require too that there should be a keeping and harmony in what we are told, with what we know already, and that our new ideas, should we be so fortunate as to get any, shall mix readily and kindly with the old. Faust is a pleasant book in this respect—the episode of Margaret it is true is Gæthe's own, but the principal characters of the doctor and his tempter are faithful to the ancient letter. The devil is “proportioned as one's heart could wish a” devilhis cloven foot is not forgotten, and the superstitions of the


magic powers of the number three, and of the blind working of mysterious triangles and pentagrams, are preserved entire. Faust sells his soul on the usual terms, and there is nothing very singular either in his reasons for doing so—he has consumed the resources of life-he has found that all wisdom is sorrow and much study weariness—his familiarity with pleasure has extended to disgust-his familiarity with science to contempt, and his imagination can conceive no happiness in such a world, even though its wildest flights within the bounds of nature could be realized. He pours forth curses upon his existence, and in the deep feeling of the nothingness or inanity of the past and of the present, he finds an argument to despise or doubt the future, and by questioning its reality, justifies his recklessness as to any retribution he may heap upon it. Mephistopheles avails himself with the skill, peculiar to his tribe, of these favourable dispositions of the doctor. He gets

leave first to tempt him, in a scene in heaven like that in Job, when he appears however as a wag only-a lover of fun and

mischief-a scoffer, but not a fiendish destroyer; but in the end he turns out very evil disposed, even for a devil, delighting not merely in freaks and dilemmas, but in inflicting bitter anguish and in mocking it. Every one remembers the passage in Sterne in the theological arguments between Dr. Slop and my Uncle Toby. But the devil, says Dr. Slop, is damned to all eternity. I am very sorry for it, says my Uncle Toby. Whe-e-e-eugh, says Dr. Slop. My Uncle Toby's goodness of heart in this passage is most excellent, and until I read Faust I always thought with him; but if he should extend his pity to Mephistopheles, I should rather cry Whe-e-e-eugh with Dr. Slop

Between Faust and the devil it is all fair play. One grudges the old monopolizer his purchase of another eternal jewel certainly, but the doctor makes out his case so clearly, that the best thing he can do is to sell, that we yield to the conviction, and however we may disapprove the transaction, we do not feel that we could have prevented it, or opposed it to any purpose had we been there. Fight dog fight bear, it is the proverb's justice, and a man full of years and experience who has been hacknicd, jostled, blasé, through å long life, may lay the blame on his own capacity if he does not become toward the end of it a pretty fair match for a fiend. But Margaret, poor Margaret, how different is all this with her-she is painted so lovely, so confiding, so

« PreviousContinue »