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the least translatable. Think of packing down the subtle and volatile essences of the Midsummer Night’s Dream into strutting French rhymes, or clogging the wings of Ariel with heroics. The copy would be as unlike the original as are the fairies of Shakspeare to those personages who form the machinery of the Contes des Fées of Perrault or Madame Murat.* A French fairy haunts drawing rooms—an English one— —“on the beached margent of the sea Dances her ringlets to the whistling wind.”
They are not correlative. No Frenchman, therefore, can understand Puck and Titania any more than an Englishman can at all comprehend, Germanically, that grotesque assemblage to which Mephistopheles introduces Faust on the Brocken—to a German, no doubt, a very natural soirée. Who can translate Aristophanes? The meaning slips through the fingers at every turn. It is impalpability itself. Every word is a word and something more— it is a word with an allusion, and frequently with an illusion too. The dramatis personae are not persons, but personifications. AHMOX can scarce make an entrance or an eacit without an explanatory note, and the English reader wanders distractedly through a wilderness of commentaries. These difficulties can be appreciated in a greater or less degree by every one who ever took his pen in hand to translate from a foreign language, and are too obvious and have been too frequently mentioned to be dwelt upon at length in this place. They, however, show the impracticability of transferring the literature of one tongue into another, and how much the objections to the attempt are augmented, where, as in the case of a dead language, new materials of thought and new forms of society have changed the whole current of expression. Some translators have accordingly aimed merely at the spirit of their author, and written as they supposed he would have written in their own language. They have made a version or paraphrase, not a translation, and given us themselves, rather than their original. Others have sacrificed every thing to strict literal interpretation, forgetting that an ancient or foreign writer,
*Even as we write, we have met with the following confirmation of our illustration in the public prints. ." The Tempest dramatized at Paris–The French have dramatized Shakspeare's difficult and mysterious play of the Tempest into a ballet for the Grand Opera of Paris, with all the magnificent scenic illusions for which that great theatre is so celebrated and unrivaled. But, as usual, they have taken the liberty of making great alterations, Caliban, misshapen and gross a thing as he is, is made, never. theless, quite a dandy, stooping down to pick up Miranda's mouchoir, &c. Oberon, her protector, the ethereal fairy, wears boots and pantaloons, and rhymes to her in coarse doggrels, after this fashion: Woulez-vous des bijoux, Un cachemire? Woulez-vous un epoux?— Je vous vois rire.”
thus deprived of all his peculiar appliances, presents to the reader but the mere mummy of himself, preserved as to form indeed, but cold, colourless, spiritless, dead.” We need not dwell upon the inconveniences of each of these systems, nor of that which lies between them, and which, as usual, partakes of the evils of both without the advantages of either. If any one doubts their inadequacy to accomplish the objects of perfect translation, let him read Ariosto in the exuberant freedom of the original, and afterwards, if he can, see him tricked out in the flaunting rags of Hoole, or bandaged and almost fettered by Stewart Rose.
After all, there is no second or short way to a knowledge of the ancients. He who would be acquainted with them must study them faithfully, earnestly, long, and he will find with Ennius that with every new tongue he will acquire a new soul; with the Emperor Charles V., that, knowing four languages, he will be equal to four men, for by so much will he have increased his capacity to enjoy and to discern. How contracted and mistaken then, must be their policy, who would limit the acquisitions of their children and their countrymen to their own or to a few modern dialects, forgetting or neglecting the common parents of them all, condemning their venerable symbols to oblivion, and holding them but as the playthings of infancy—the steps by which childhood climbs into knowledge, the accurate and lifelong study of which is the idle vision of some dreamy scholar. It is not for us, in this old age of the earth, fenced in with nothing but our own virtue, cut off from every thing that has hitherto been deemed conservative in the polity of great nations, trying for the last time that great experiment, which, to attempt, has hitherto been to fail in, to throw chart or compass upon the waters, resolved, fool hardily, to sail with the guidance only of our own eagle-eye, and the strength of our good right hand. The earth is in commotion. The shifting scene of the political drama presents daily new and yet newer combinations. The elements of change are abroad, working silently sometimes, always potently, each his proper message. Are we beyond or above their influence? Who believes or imagines it, who has watched the working of events for the last six years?
“Cum jam semianimum laceravit Flavius orbem
* Who, for instance, would recognise the beautiful simile of Catullus, in the fol-
Within that time, four European kingdoms have been revolutionized by arms, and a fifth by opinion. As yet, even as to them, the battle is but begun—for the rest the arms are forging. We too, have had our progress towards the future. What was deemed settled, has been found insecure; what certain, vague; what steadfast, unstable. Apprehensions have increased to alarms, and dreaded dangers to present and palpable evils. Granted power, according to its old and invariable law, has begotten powers forbidden, and success, in the eyes of the many, has justified means. Public virtue has found a strong and vigilant enemy in private interest, and innocence has proved no match for calumny. We have discovered, moreover, that however difficult it may be to obtain power, it is not very hard to keep it, and that other means may be found whereby to array the many against the few beside the “graves annonae,” or a distinction of seats at the theatre. In short we have found, what thirty years ago we learned to suspect, that it is in the power of those chances, with which it pleases Providence to baffle human sagacity, to overturn or retard man's sairest and most hopeful schemes of improvement, and almost to check forever the contest between his high and proud volition, and his overwhelming destiny.
To the progress of error, where the mind and will are free, there is but one antidote, and that is knowledge—political, moral, religious, universal. None so high that it may not be available— none so mean that it will not be necessary. “The little catechism of the rights of man is soon learned,” says an eloquent philosopher, but not so soon that camel’s load of commentaries with which the pursuits and the passions of men have elucidated or encumbered it. He who loves his country, then, and in a more selfish view, he who loves himself, will be cautious how he obscures a single source of light, or obstructs one avenue to truth. There was a time when the very axioms which to us are written in sunbeams, were but the dreams of philosophy. There was another, when, dimmed and obscured, they could be read only by the light of a battle-fire, or were cherished in the remote recesses of mountains and deserts. Immortal as they are, that time may r return. The extreme of untaught and intemperate liberty, is but a step from anarchy. The madman hurls his torch on high, and deems himself a sage with a lantern. He but consumes where he would enlighten. To those who would stay his hand, who, while we are yet a prosperous and united nation, would securé their own happiness, and fortify their countrymen in the principles of safe, rational, and intelligent freedom, we commend once more the cause of liberal learning.
ART. II. — POEMS OF LAMARTINE.
1.—OEuvres d’Alphonse de Lamartine. Bruxelles: 1830. 2.—Harmonies Poétiques et Religieuses, par A. DE LAMARTINE. Bruxelles: 1830,
THAT the changes which have taken place of late years in French poetry may be attributed in a great measure to the influence of the popular song writers, we conceive it reasonable to suppose. Much is doubtless owing to the progressive advancement of human intellect, in which we of the present generation are pleased to fancy ourselves elevated to an enviable superiority above our less fortunate ancestors; but since more indisputable and definite causes may be looked to for the explanation of the fact, it is but just to refer it to them. In glancing at the career of Beranger, we need no argument to convince us of the sway over the popular mind enjoyed by the gifted chansonnier; or of the license with which it was exercised. Unbiassed, perhaps, by the prejudices in favour of the ancien régime, which would have hampered the efforts of less daring spirits, or attempts in the more elevated departments of poetry, and secure in his influence over a portion of the community standing less in awe than the higher classes of established rules, the song writer indulged in a freedom at first unresisted, by reason of the limited range of its effects: the extension of those effects becoming no subject of alarm till the mischief, if so it might be called, was already done. By the subtle influence of persuasive novelty, by an exhibition of the beauties of liberty in a garb attractive as new, the affections of the people were gradually weaned from former opinions; and though the ancient models of art continued to frown as before in sculptured majesty upon the daring innovations perpetrated at their very feet, the statues were stripped of divinity, and worshipped no longer with the adoration of fear.
It can be no subject of wonder that the newly won exemption from restraint procured by these active combatants in the cause of liberty, should sometimes degenerate into the licentiousness which too often follows success. The triumph was signal, and the demonstrations of joy in consequence, lawless. The persecutions to which Beranger was subjected from the government, in consequence of his reckless effusions, setting at defiance political and moral restrictions, attest the abuse of this freedom. To give a new and more lofty direction to the genius of French poetry, there needed some poet to arise, elevated by genius above his contemporaries, and gifted with that true inspiration which seeks themes in all that is pure and high and beautiful in nature, investing common objects with its own purity and loveliness. Such a one is the individual whose productions form the subject of our present article. The poetry of Lamartine differs from that of the rest of his countrymen in many respects. The points of contrast between him and Béranger are striking; and we have often heard the genius of the two poets compared, though not altogether with justice when the palm of superiority has been awarded to the gay chansonnier, on account of the greater fancied utility of his productions. If whatever tends to elevate the imagination and correct the heart be pre-eminently useful, then is Lamartine especially entitled to the praise, such being the scope and the tendency of every thing he has written. We must notice one remarkable and characteristic difference between him and his great contemporary. In the works of Béranger, we forget the author, who seems frequently to forget himself in his stirring themes. This is more particularly the case in his loftier political Odes, and in those effusions of pensive tenderness which describe so touchingly scenes of distress witnessed or conceived by the bard, Carried away by enthusiasm in the subject awakened by the most glowing language, we see or hear nothing of the writer himself. But the enthusiasm we feel in the poems of Lamartine has a source less external. The heart, the living heart of the poet is laid open to us; fraught with its warm feelings, its brilliant and servid fancies, its treasures of rich and deep thought. The same spirit constantly exhibits itself, under every different form; we trace the same leading features in every picture, whether gorgeous or gloomy, adorned or undisguised. Nor is the likeness productive of monotony; they are features on which we love to gaze, and the spirit is one to whose sweet and solemn promptings we can never be weary of listening. It elevates us to the sublimer realities, perceived and appreciated only by those to whom some portion of the same influence has been imparted. Lamartine has drawn largely upon nature for his stores of imagery, and from the abundance she offers has selected with a graceful and discriminating hand. With the tumults and passions of men he has little to do; the home of his muse is in the magnificence of woods and rivers and mountains, where she communes with ideal beings, and revels in a world of her own creation. To him every object in the natural, bears its relation to some sentiment in the moral world; thus he truly finds “tongues in trees,” and, to employ one of his own most appropriate figures, sees in “the dewdrop twinkling from a leaf, a heaven reflected, as vast, as pure, as in the wide ocean in his fullness of azure l’” We proceed to examine the poems before us in detail. The author has given the names of Poetical Meditations to about fiftysix poems, which seem each to have been inspired by some passWOL, XVII.-No. 33. 5