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Fauetus is gone -regard his hellish fall, place it much more in contrast, than in any Whose fiendful torture may exhort the wise, terms of comparison with that of his noble Only to wonder at unlawful things."
successor. In the tone and pitch of the comBut these, and many other smooth and position, as well as in the character of the fanciful verses in this curious old drama, diction in the more solemn parts, the piece prove nothing, we think, against the origi- before us reminds us much more of the Pronality of Manfred; for there is nothing to be metheus of Æschylus, than of any more found there of the pride, the abstraction, and modern performance. The tremendous solithe heart-rooted misery in which that origi- tude of the principal person--the supernatural nality consists. Faustus is a vulgar sorcerer, beings with whom alone he holds communion tempted to sell his soul to the Devil for the -the guilt—the firmness—the misery-are ordinary price of sensual pleasure, and earthly all points of resemblance, to which the power and glory—and who shrinks and shud- grandeur of the poetic imagery only gives a ders in agony when the forfeit comes to be more striking effect. The chief differences exacted. The style, too, of Marlowe, though are, that the subject of the Greek poet was elegant and scholarlike, is weak and childish sanctified and exalted by the established becompared with the depth and force of much lief of his country; and that his terrors are of what we have quoted from Lord Byron; nowhere tempered with the sweetness which and the disgusting buffoonery and low farce breathes from so many passages of his Engof which his piece is principally made up, lish rival.
(January, 1809.) Reliques of ROBERT BURNs, consisting chiefly of Original Letters, Poems, and Critical Obser
valions on Scottish Songs Collected and published by R. H. CROMEK. 8vo. pp. 450. London: 1808.
Burns is certainly by far the greatest of our childhood ; and, co-operating with the solitude poetical prodigies—from Stephen Duck down of his rural occupations, were sufficient to to Thomas Dermody. They are forgotten rouse his ardent and ambitious mind to the already; or only remembered for derision. love and the practice of poetry. He had about But the name of Burns, if we are not mis- as much scholarship, in short, we imagine, as taken, has not yet “gathered all its fame;" Shakespeare; and far better models to form and will endure long after those circumstan- his ear to harmony, and train his fancy to ces are forgotten which contributed to its first graceful invention. notoriety. So much indeed are we impressed We ventured, on a former occasion, to say with a sense of his merits, that we cannot something of the effects of regular education, help thinking it a derogation from them to and of the general diffusion of literature, in consider him as a prodigy at all; and are con- repressing the vigour and originality of all vinced that he will never be rightly estimated kinds of mental exertion. That speculation as a poet, till that vulgar wonder be entirely was perhaps carried somewhat too far; but repressed which was raised on his having if the paradox have proof any where, it is in been a ploughman. It is true, no doubt, that its application to poetry. Among well eduhe was born in an humble station ; and that cated people, the standard writers of this much of his early life was devoted to severe description are at once so venerated and so labour, and to the society of his fellow-labour- familiar, that it is thought equally impossible ers. But he was not himself either unedu- to rival them, as to write verses without atcated or illiterate; and was placed in a situa- tempting it. If there be one degree of fame tion more favourable, perhaps, to the develop- which excites emulation, there is another ment of great poetical talents, than any other which leads to despair : Nor can we conceive which could have been assigned him. He any one less likely to be added to the short was taught, at a very early age, to read and list of original poets, than a young man of fine write; and soon after acquired a competent fancy and delicate taste, who has acquired a knowledge of French, together with the ele- high relish for poetry, by perusing the most ments of Latin and Geometry. His taste for celebrated writers, and conversing with the reading was encouraged by his parents and most intelligent judges. The head of such a many of his associates; and, before he had person is filled, of course, with all the splendid ever composed a single stanza, he was not passages of ancient and modern authors, and only farniliar with many prose writers, but with the fine and fastidious remarks which far more intimately acquainted with Pope, have been made even on those passages. Shakespeare, and Thomson, than nine tenths When he turns his eyes, therefore, on his of the youth that now leave our schools for own conceptions or designs, they can scarcethe university. Those authors, indeed, with ly fail to appear rude and contemptible. He Rome old collections of songs, and the lives of is perpetually haunted and depressed by the Hannibal and of Sir William Wallace, were ideal presence of those great masters, and his habitual study from the first days of his their exacting critics. He is aware to what
comparisons his productions will be subjected stage of their history, and in a period comamong his own friends and associates; and paratively rude ard unlettered. Homer utki recollects the derision with which so many forth, like the morning star, before the dawn rash adventurers have been chased back io of literature in Greece, and almost all the their obscurity. Thus, the merit of his great great and sublime poeis of modern Europe predecessors chills, instead of encouraging his are already between two and three hudud ardour; and the illustrious names which have years old. Since that time, although bocks already reached to the summit of excellence, and readers, and opportunities of reading, are act like the tall and spreading trees of the multiplied a thousand told, we have improved forest, which overshadow and strangle the chiefly in point and terseness of expression, saplings which may have struck root in the in the art of raillery, and in clearless and soil below—and afford etficient shelter to simplicity of thought. Force, richness, and nothing but creepers and parasites.
variety of invention, are now at least as rare There is, no doubt, in some few individuals, as ever. But the literature and refinement of " that strong divinity of soul":—that decided the age does not exist at all for a rustic and and irresistible vocation to glory, which, in illiterate individual; and, consequently, the spite of all these obstructions, calls out, per- present time is to him what the rude times haps once or twice in a century, a bold and of old were to the vigorous writers which original poet from the herd of scholars and adorned them.. academical literati. But the natural tendency But though, for these and for other reasons. of their studies, and by far their most com- we can see no propriety in regarding the mon effect, is to repress originality, and dis- poetry of Burns chiefly as the wonderful work courage enterprise ; and either to change those of a peasant, and thus admiring it much in whom nature meant for poets, into mere read the same way as if it had been written with ers of poetry, or to bring them out in the form his toes; yet there are peculiarities in his of witty parodists, or ingenious imitators. In- works which remind us of the lowness of his dependent of the reasons which have been origin, and faults for which the defects of his already suggested, it will perhaps be found, i education afford an obvious cause, if not a too, that necessity is the mother of invention, legitimate apology. In forming a correct esin this as well as in the more vulgar arts; or, timate of these works, it is necessary to take at least, that inventive genius will frequently into account those peculiarities. slumber in inaction, where the preceding in- The first is, the undiciplined harshness and genuity has in part supplied the wants of the acrimony of his invective. The great boast
A solitary and uninstructed man, of polished life is the delicacy, and even the with lively feelings and an inflammable imagi- generosity of its hostility—that quality which nation, will often be irresistibly led to exer- is still the characteristic, as it furnishes the cise those gifts, and to occupy and relieve his denomination, of a gentleman-that principle mind in poetical composition : But if his edu- which forbids us to attack the defenceless, to cation, his reading, and his society supply strike the fallen, or to mangle the slain-and him with an abundant store of images and enjoins us, in forging the shafts of satire, to emotions, he will probably think but little of increase the polish exactly as we add to their those internal resources, and feed his mind keenness or their weight. For this, as well contentedly with what has been provided by as for other things, we are indebted to chival. the industry of others.
ry; and of this Burns had none. His ingeni. To say nothing, therefore, of the distractions ous and amiable biographer has spoken reand the dissipation of mind that belong to the peatedly in praise of his talents for satirecommerce of the world, nor of the cares of we think, with a most unhappy partiality: minute accuracy and high finishing which are His epigrams and lampoons appear to us, one imposed on the professed scholar, there seem and all, unworthy of him ;-otiensive frem to be deeper reasons for the separation of their extreme coarseness and violence-and originality and accomplishment; and for the contemptible from their want of wit or bril. partiality which has led poetry to choose liancy. They seem to have been written, riot almost all her prime favourites among the re- out of playful malice or virtuous indignation. cluse and uninstructed. A youth of quick but out of fierce and ungovernable anger. His parts, in short, and creative fancy-with just whole raillery consists in railing; and his so much reading as to guide his ambition, and satirical vein displays itself chiefly in calling roughhew his notions of excellence-if his lot names and in swearing. We say ihis mainly be thrown in humble retirement, where he with a reference to his personalities. In many has no reputation to lose, and where he can of his more general representations of life ard easily hope to excel all that he sees around manners, there is no doubt much ihat may be him, is much more likely, we think, to give called satirical, mixed up with admirable huhimself up to poetry, and to train himself to mour, and description of inimitable vivacity: habits of invention, ihan if he had been en- There is a similar want of polish, or at least cumbered by the pretended helps of extended of respectfulness, in the general tone of his study and literary society.
gallantry. He has written with more passion, If these observations should fail to strike perhaps, and more variety of natural feeling, of themselves, they may perhaps derive ad-on the subject of love, than any other poei ditional weight from considering the very re- whatever-but with a fervour that is somemarkable fact, that almost all the great poets times indelicale, and seldom accommodated of
every country have appeared in an early to the timidity and “sweet austere com.
posure" of women of refinement. He has and that the excuse of impetuous feeling can expressed admirably the feelings of an en- hardly ever be justly pleaded for those who amoured peasant, who, however refined or neglect the ordinary duties of life, must be eloquent he may be, always approaches his apparent, we think, even to the least reflectmistress on a footing of equality; but has ing of those sons of fancy and song. It renever caught that tone of chivalrous gallantry quires no habit of deep thinking, nor any thing which uniformly abases itself in the presence more, indeed, than the information of an honest of the object of its devotion. Accordingly, heart, to perceive that it is cruel and base to instead of suing for a smile, or melting in a spend, in vain superfluities, that money which tear, his muse deals in nothing but locked belongs of right to the pale industrious tradesembraces and midnight rencontres; and, even man and his famishing infants; or that it is a in his complimentary effusions to lailies of vile prostitution of language, to talk of that the highest rank, is for straining them to the man's generosity or goodness of heart, who bosom of her impetuous votary. It is easy, sits raving about friendship and philanthropy accordingly, to see from his correspondence, in a tavern, while his wife's heart is breaking that many of his female patronesses shrunk at her cheerless fireside, and his children from the vehement familiarity of his admira- pining in solitary poverty. tion; and there are even some traits in the This pitiful cant of careless feeling and volumes before us, from which we can gather, eccentric genius, accordingly, has never found that he resented the shyness and estrange- much favour in the eyes of English sense and ment to which those feelings gave rise, with morality. The most signal effect which it at least as little chivalry as he had shown in ever produced, was on the muddy brains of producing them.
some German youth, who are said to have But the leading vice in Burns' character, left college in a body' to rob on the highway! and the cardinal deformity, indeed, of all his because Schiller had represented the captain productions, was his contempt, or affectation of a gang as so very noble a creature.-But of contempt, for prudence, decency, and reg- in this country, we believe, a predilection for ularity; and his admiration of thoughtless that honourable profession must have preness, oddity, and vehement sensibility ;-his ceded this admiration of the character. The belief, in short, in the dispensing power of style we have been speaking of, accordingly, genius and social feeling, in all matters of is now the heroics only of the hulks and the morality and common sense. This is the house of correction; and has no chance, we very slang of the worst German plays, and suppose, of being greatly admired, except in the lowest of our town-made novels; nor can the farewell speech of a young gentleman any thing be more lamentable, than that it preparing for Botany Bay. should have found a patron in such a man as It is humiliating to think how deeply Burns Burns, and communicated to many of his pro- has fallen into this debasing error. He is perductions a character of immorality, at once petually making a parade of his thoughtlesscontemptible and hateful. It is but too true, ness, inflammability, and imprudence, and that men of the highest genius have frequently talking with much complacency and exultabeen hurried by their passions into a violation tion of the offence he has occasioned to the of prudence and duty; and there is some- sober and correct part of mankind. This thing generous, at least, in the apology which odious slang infects almost all his
and their admirers may make for them, on the a very great proportion of his poetry; and is, score of their keener feelings and habitual we are persuaded, the chief, if not the only want of reflection. But is apology, which source of the disgust with which, in spite of is quite unsatisfactory in the mouth of another, his genius, we know that he is regarded by becomes an insult and an absurdity whenever many very competent and liberal judges. His it proceeds from their own. A man may say apology, too, we are willing to believe, is to of his friend, that he is a noble-hearted fellow be found in the original lowness of his situa—too generous to be just, and with too much tion, and the slightness of his acquaintance spirit to be always prudent and regular. But with the world. With his talents and powers he cannot be allowed to say even this of him- of observation, he could not have seen much self; and still less to represent himself as a of the beings who echoed this raving, without hairbrained sentimental soul, constantly car- feeling for them that distrust and contempt ried away by fine fancies and visions of love which would have made him blush to think and philanthropy, and born to confound and he had ever stretched over them the protectdespise the cold-blooded sons of prudence ing shield of his genius. and sobriety. This apology, indeed, evidently Akin to this most lamentable trait of vuldestroys itself: For it shows that conduct to garity, and indeed in some measure arising be the result of deliberate system, which it out of it, is that perpetual boast of his own affects at the same time to justify as the fruit independence, which is obtruded upon the of mere thoughtlessness and casual impulse. readers of Burris in almost every page of his Such protestations, therefore, will always be writings. The sentiment itself is noble, and treated, as they deserve, not only with con- it is often finely expressed ;- but a gentleman tempt, but with incredulity; and their mag, would only have expressed it when he was nanimous authors set down as determined insulted or provoked; and would never have profligates, who seek to disguise their selfish- made it a spontaneous theme to those friends ness under a name somewhat less revolting, in whose estimation he felt that his honour That profligacy is almost always selfishness, I stood clear. It is mixed up, too, in Burns
with too fierce a tone of defiance; and indi- to lay it down as our opinion—that his poetry cates rather the pride of a sturdy peasant, is far superior to his prose; that his Scottish than the calm and natural elevation of a compositions are greatly to be preferred to his
English ones; and that his Songs will probaThe last of the symptoms of rusticity which bly outlive all his other productions. A very we think it necessary to notice in the works few remarks on each of these subjects will of this extraordinary man, is that frequent comprehend almost all that we have to say of mistake of mere exaggeration and violence, the volumes now before us. for force and sublimity, which has defaced The prose works of Burns consist almost so much of his prose composition, and given entirely of his letters. They bear, as well as an air of heaviness and labour to a good deal his poetry, the seal and the impress of his of his serious poetry. The truth is, that his genius; but they contain much more bad forte was in humour and in pathos-or rather taste, and are written with far more apparent in tenderness of feeling; and that he has very labour. His poetry was almost all written seldom succeeded, either where mere wit primarily from feeling, and only secondarily and sprightliness, or where great energy and from ambition. His letters seem to have been weight of sentiment were requisite. He hack nearly all composed as exercises, and for disevidently a very false and crude notion of play. There are few of them written with what constituted strength of writing; and in- simplicity or plainness; and though natural stead of that simple and brief directness enough as to the sentiment, they are generally which stamps the character of vigour upon very strained and elaborate in the expression. every syllable, has generally had recourse to A very great proportion of them, too, relate a mere accumulation of hyperbolical expres- neither to facts nor feelings peculiarly consions, which encumber the diction instead of nected with the author or his correspondentexalting it, and show the determination to be but are made up of general declamation, impressive, without the power of executing moral reflections, and vague discussions—all it. This error also we are inclined to ascribe evidently composed for the sake of effect, and entirely to the defects of his education. The frequently introduced with long complaints of value of simplicity in the expression of pas- having nothing to say, and of the necessity sion, is a lesson, we believe, of nature and of and difficulty of letter-writing, genius ;—but its importance in mere grave By far the best of those compositions, are and impressive writing, is one of the latest such as we should consider as exceptions from discoveries of rhetorical experience.
this general character—such as contain some With the allowances and exceptions we specific information as to himself, or are sughave now stated, we think Burns entitled to gested by events or observations directly apthe rank of a great and original genius. He plicable to his correspondent. One of the has in all his compositions great force of con- best, perhaps, is that addressed to Dr. Moore, ception; and great spirit and animation in its containing an account of his early life, of expression. He has taken a large range which Dr. Currie has made such a judicious through the region of Fancy, and naturalized use in his Biograpby. It is written with great himself in almost all her climates. He has clearness and characteristic effect, and congreat humour-great powers of description- tains many touches of easy humour and natugreat pathos—and great discrimination of ral eloquence. We are struck, as we open character. Almost every thing that he says the book accidentally, with the following has spirit and originality, and every thing that original application of a classical image, by he says well
, is characterized by a charming this unlettered rustic. Talking of the first facility, which gives a grace even to occa- vague aspirations of his own gigantic mind, sional rudeness, and communicates to the he says-we think very finely—"I had felt reader a delightful sympathy with the sponta- some early stirrings of ambition; but they neous soaring and conscious inspiration of the were the blind gropings of Homer's Cyclop poet.
round the walls of his cave!” Of his other Considering the reception which these letters
, those addressed to Mrs. Dunlop are, works have met with from the public, and the in our opinion, by far the best. He appears, long period during which the greater part of from first to last, to have stood somewhat in them have been in their possession, it may awe of this excellent lady; and to have been appear superflous to say any thing as to their no less sensible of her sound judgment and characteristic or peculiar merit
. Though the strict sense of propriety, than of her steady ultimate judgment of the public, however, be and generous partiality. The following pasalways sound, or at least decisive as to its sage we think is striking and characteristic:general result, it is not always very apparent upon what grounds it has proceeded; nor in
"I own myself so little a Presbyterian, that I consequence of what, or in spite of what, it approve of set times and seasons of more than ordi. has been obtained. In Burns works there is nary acts of devotion, for breaking in on that habit.
uated routine of life and thought which is so apt 10 much to censure, as well as much to praise ; reduce our existence to a kind of instinct, or even and as time has not yet separated his ore from sometimes, and with some minds, 10 a state very its dross, it may be worth while to state, in a little superior to mere machinery. very general way, what we presume to antici- “This day; the first Sunday of May; a breezy, pate as the result of this separation. Without bluc-skyed noon, some time about the beginning, pretending to enter at all into the comparative end of autumn ;-these, time out of mind, have
and a hoary morning and calm sunny day about the merit of particular passages we may venture | been with me a kind of holiday.
"I believe I owe this to that glorious paper in the “ Honoured Sir,-I have purposely delayed wri. Spectator, “The Vision of Mirza ;' a piece that ting, in the hope that I should have ihe pleasure of struck my young fancy before I was capable of fix. seeing you on New-year's Day; but work comes ing an idea to a word of three syllables. On the so hard upon us, that I do not choose to be absent 5th day of the moon, which, according to the custom on ihat account, as well as for some other little of my forefathers, I always keep holy, after having reasons, which I shall tell you at meeting. My washed myself, and offered up my morning devo- health is nearly the same as when you were here, tions, I ascended the high hill of Bagdat, in order to only my sleep is a little sounder, and, on the whole, pass the rest of the day in meditation and prayer.' I am rather better than otherwise, though I mend
** We know noihing, or next to nothing, of she by very slow degrees. The weakness of my nerves substance or structure of our souls, so cannot ac- has so debilitated my mind, that I dare neiiber re. count for those seeming caprices in them, that one view past wants, nor look forward into futurily; for should be particularly pleased with this thing, or the least anxiety or perturbation in my breast pro. struck with thai, which, on ininds of a different duces most unhappy effects on my whole frame. cast, makes no extraordinary impression. I have Sometimes, indeed, when for an hour or two my some favourite flowers in spring; among which are spirits are a little lightened, I glimmer a little into the mountain-daisy, the hare-bell, the fox-glove, the futurity ; but my principal, and indeed my only wild brier-rose, the budding birch, and the hoary pleasurable employment, is looking backwards and hawthorn, that I view and hang over with particular forwards, in a moral and religious way. I am quile delight. I never hear the loud, solitary whistle of transporied at the thought, that ere long, perhaps the curlew in a summer noon, or the wild mixing very soon, I shall bid an eternal adieu to all the cadence of a iroop of grey plover in an auiumnal pains, and uneasinesses, and disquietudes of this morning, without feeling an elevation of soul, like weary life; for I assure you I am heartily tired of the enthusiasm of devotion or poetry. Tell me, myit; and, if I do not very much deceive myself, I dear friend, to what can this be owing? Are we a could contentedly and gladly resign it. piece of machinery, which, like the Eolian harp,
The soul, uneasy, and confin'd at home passive, takes the impression of the passing acci. Rests and expatiates in a life to come.' dent? Or do these workings argue something within us above the trodden clod?”'-. Vol. ii. pp. the 15th, 16th, and 17th verses of the 7th chapter
It is for this reason I am more pleased with 195–197.
of the Revelations, than with any ten times as To this we may add the following passage, many verses in the whole Bible, and would not ex.
change the noble enthusiasm with which they inas a part, indeed, of the same picture :
spire me for all that this word has 10 offer. As for
this world, I despair of ever making a figure in ii. " There is scarcely any earthly object gives me more-I do not know if I should call it pleasure - Autter of the gay. I shall never again be capable
I am not formed for the busile of the busy, nor the but something which exalts me, something which of entering into such scenes. Indeed I am altu. enraptures me-ihan to walk in the sheltered side of a wood, or high plantation, in a cloudy winter gether unconcerned for the thoughts of this life. I
foresee that poverty and obscurity probably await day, and hear the stormy wind howling among the trees, and raving over ihe plain! It is my best daily preparing to meet them. I have but just time
me; and I am in some measure prepared, and season for devotion : my mind is wrapt up in a kind and paper to return to you my grateful thanks for of enthusiasm to Him, who, in the pompous lan. the lessons of virtue and piety you have given me; guage of the Hebrew bard, * walks on the wings which were too much neglected at the time of of the wind."— Vol. ii. p. 11.
giving them, but which, I hope, have been rememThe following is one of the best and most bered ere it is yet too late."-Vol. i. pp. 99-101. striking of a whole series of eloquent hypo- Before proceeding to take any particular chondriasm.
notice of his poetical compositions, we must " After six weeks' confinement, I am beginning that all his best pieces are written in Scotch;
take leave to apprise our Southern readers, to walk across the room. They have been six hor and that it is impossible for them to form any rible weeks ;-anguish and low spirits made me unfit to read, write, or think.
adequate judgment of their merits, without a "I have a hundred times wished that one could pretty long residence among those who still resign life as an officer resigns a commission : for I use ihat language. To be able to translate would not take in any poor, ignorant wreich, by the words, is but a small part of the knowGod knows, a miserable soldier enough: now i ledge that is necessary. The whole genius march to the campaign, a starving cader-a live and idiom of the language must be familiar; more conspicuously wretched.
and the characters, and habits, and associa**I am ashamed of all this ; for though I do want tions of those who speak it. We beg leave bravery for the warfare of life, I could wish, like too, in passing, to observe, that this Scotch is some other soldiers, to have as much fortitude or not to be considered as a provincial dialectcunning as to dissemble or conceal my cowardice." the vehicle only of rustic vulgarity and rude
Vol. ii. pp. 127, 128.
Jocal humour. It is the language of a whole One of the most striking letters in the col- country—long an independent kingdom, and lection, and, to us, one of the most interest- still separate in laws, character, and manners. ing, is the earliest of the whole series; being It is by no means peculiar to the vulgar; but addressed to his father in 1781, six or seven is the common speech of the whole nation in years before his name had been heard of out early life-and, with many of its most exof his own family. The author was then a alted and accomplished individuals, throughcommon flax-dresser, and his father a poor out their whole existence; and, though it be peasant;-yet there is not one trait of vul- true that, in later times, it has been, in some garity, either in the thought or the expression; measure, laid aside by the more ambitious but, on the contrary, a dignity and elevation and aspiring of the present generation, it is of sentiment, which must have been con- still recollected, even by them, as the familiar sidered as of good omen in a youth of much language of their childhood, and of those who higher condition. The letter is as follows:- I were the earliest objects of their love and