Page images
PDF
EPUB

POETRY

OF THE

ANTI-JACOBIN.

No I.

INTRODUCTION.

Nov. 20, 1797. In our anxiety to provide for the amusement as well as information of our Readers, we have not omitted to inake all the inquiries in our power for ascertaining the means of procuring Poetical assistance. And it would give us no small satisfaction to be able to report, that we had succeeded, in this point, precisely in the manner which would best have suited our own taste and feelings, as well as those which we wish to cultivate in our Readers.

But whether it be that good morals, and what we should call good politics, are inconsistent with the spirit of true Poetry-whetherthe Muses still with freedom found” have an aversion to regular governments, and require a frame and system of protection less complicated than king, lords, and commons ;

B

[ocr errors]

" Whether primordial nonsense springs to life

• In the wild war of Democratic strife,” and there only—or for whatever other reason it may be, whether physical, or moral, or philosophical(which last is understood to mean something more than the other two, though exactly what, it is difficult to say), we have not been able to find one good and true poet, of sound principles and sober practice, upon whom we could rely for furnishing us with a handsome quantity of sufficient and approved verse—such verse as our Readers might be expected to get by heart, and to sing' as the worthy philosopher Monge describes the little children of Sparta and Athens,singing the songs of Freedom, in expectation of the coming of the Great Nation.

In this difficulty, we have had no choice, but either to provide no poetry at all,-a shabby expedient,-or to go to the only market where it is to be had good and ready made, that of the Jacobins an expedient full of danger, and not to be used but with the utmost caution and delicacy.

To this latter expedient, however, after mature deliberation, we have determined to have recourse ; qualifying it at the same time with such precautions, as may conduce at once to the safety of our Readers' principles, and to the improvement of our own poetry.

For this double purpose, we shall select from time to time, from among those effusions of the Jacobin Muse which happen to fall in our way, such pieces as may serve to illustrate some one of the principles, on which the poetical, as well as the political, doctrine

of the New School is established-prefacing each of them, for our Reader's sake, with a short disquisition on the particular tenet intended to be enforced or insinuated in the production before them-and accompanying it with an humble effort of our own, in imitation of the poem itself, and in further illustration of its principle.

By these means, though we cannot hope to catch " the wood-notes wildof the Bards of Freedom, we may yet acquire, by dint of repeating after them, a more complete knowledge of the secret in which their greatness lies, than we could by mere prosaic admiration—and if we cannot become poets ourselves, we at least shall have collected the elements of a Jacobin Art of Poetry, for the use of those whose genius may be more capable of turning them to advantage.

It might not be unamusing to trace the springs and principles of this species of poetry, which are to be found, some in the exaggeration, and others in the direct inversion of the sentiments and passions, which have in all ages animated the breast of the favourite of the Muses, and distinguished him from the “ vulgar “ throng."

The poet in all ages has despised riches and grandeur.

The Jacobin poet improves this sentiment into a hatred of the rich and the great.

The poet of other times has been an enthusiast in the love of his native soil.

The Jacobin poet rejects all restriction in his feelings.

$

His love is enlarged and expanded so as to comprehend all human kind. The love of all human kind is without doubt a noble passion : it can hardly be necessary to mention, that its operation extends to Freemen, and them only, all over the world.

The old poet was a warrior, at least in imagination ; and sung

the actions of the heroes of his country, in strains which “made Ambition Virtue,” and which overwhelmed the horrors of war in its glory.

The Jacobin poet would have no objection to sing battles too-but he would take a distinction The prowess of Buonaparte, indeed, he might chant in his loftiest strain of exultation. There we should find nothing but trophies, and triumphs, and branches of laurel and olive, phalanxes of Republicans shouting victory, satellites of despotism biting the ground, and geniusses of Liberty planting standards on mountain. tops.

But let his own country triumph, or her allies obtain an advantage ;straightway“the beauteous face of war” is changed; the “pride, pomp, and circumstance” of victory are kept carefully out of sight-and we are presented with nothing but contusions and amputations, plundered peasants, and deserted looms. Our poet points the thunder of his blank verse at the head of the recruiting serjeant, or roars in dithyrambics against the lieutenants of pressgangs.

But it would be endless to chase the coy Muse of Jacobinism through all her characters. Mille habet ornatus. The Mille decenter habet, is perhaps more

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »