Page images

much more must they of Dumfries have been; and as, in such coteries, there are usually very choice subjects for satire, they had no reason to hope that the bard would spare them. This led to irritation in the first instance, and in the second, to revenge.

At that time the French revolution broke out; and, singular as it may seem, the effects of it were, perhaps, more baneful in Scotland than in any other country. Those who were in power, in that country, were needy, rapacious, and venal; and if they could but recommend themselves to the notice of the state, they did not much mind the way in which they did it; alarm and treachery were the order of the day; and if any of the minions could succeed in making it be believed that any man, more especially a man of talents, was a democrat-disaffected to the king, and more especially to the minister, it was the same as finding a treasure. The tools of this miserable faction, partly out of hatred to talents of which they were afraid, and partly in the hope that they would thereby win what they had not ability to work for, marked Burns as their prey. The bold, open and manly character of the bard, rendered him an easy victim to those vermin; and for some words, of course spoken in hours of conviviality, and some foolish matters about toasts, he was reported as a danger ous and suspected person; and every lie that any one professing pseudoloyalty chose to form against him, was believed. In consequence, that society which had drawn him out of the country by its plaudits deserted him; and, in mental agony that cannot well be described, he sunk into an early grave-fell a victim to neglect and treachery in the very prime of his days. No sooner had they procured his death than they came with their crocodile tears; and men, who might with one word have averted the catastrophe, but did not, came fawning in to steal a little fame by being mourners at his bier.

All the neglect, and all the persecution that he suffered, could not, however, destroy the immortal spark within him. Even in these years, in which he bore the iniquities of a degraded country and a despicable faction, Burns poured forth some of the choicest of his lyrics. For any thing but fame-and that to a mag who, upon the brink of starvation himself, is fattening others, is not quite enough-his muse might as well have been silent. For the songs which he contributed to Johnson's collection, Burns got two copies of the book! and for the labour of years towards that of Thomson, he received five pounds as a gift, and five pounds as an alms!

Mr. Lockhart's closing remarks on the character of Burns, have in them a great deal of truth, good sense, and fair critical acumen.

"As to Burns's want of education and knowledge, Mr. Campbell may not have considered, but he must admit, that whatever Burns's oppor tunities had been at the time when he produced his first poem, such a man as he was not likely to be a hard reader, (which he certainly was,) and a constant observer of men and manners, in a much wider circle of society than almost any other great poet has ever moved in, from threeand-twenty to eight-and-thirty, with out having thoroughly removed any pretext for auguring unfavourably on that score, of what he might have been expected to produce in the more elaborate departments of his art, had his life been spared to the usual limits of humanity. In another way, however, I cannot help sus pecting that Burns's enlarged knov ledge, both of men and books, pro duced an unfavourable effect, rather than otherwise, on the exertions, such as they were, of his later years. His generous spirit was open to the in pression of every kind of excellence; his lively imagination, bending is own vigour to whatever it touched, made him admire even what other people try to read in vain; and after travelling, as he did, over the gene

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

ral surface of our literature, he appears to have been somewhat startled at the consideration of what he himself had, in comparative ignorance, adventured, and to have been more intimidated than encouraged by the retrospect. In most of the new departments in which he made some trial of his strength, (such, for example, as the moral Epistle in Pope's vein, the heroic satire, &c.,) he appears to have soon lost heart, and paused. There is indeed one magnificent exception in Tam o' Shanter, a piece which no one can understand without believing, that had Burns pursued that walk, and poured out his stores of traditionary lore, embellished with his extraordinary powers of description of all kinds, we might have had from his hand a series of national tales, uniting the quaint simplicity, sly humour, and irresistible pathos of another Chaucer, with the strong and graceful versification, and masculine wit and sense of another Dryden.

"This was a sort of feeling that must have in time subsided. But let us not waste words in regretting what might have been, where so much is. Burns, short and painful as were his years, has left behind him a volume in which there is inspiration for every fancy, and music for every mood; which lives, and will live in strength and vigour 'to soothe' as a generous lover of genius has said- the sorrows of how many a lover, to inflame the patriotism of how many a soldier, to fan the fires of how many a genius, to disperse the gloom of solitude, appease the agonies of pain, encourage virtue, and show vice its ugliness;'-a volume, in which, centuries hence, as now, wherever a Scotsman may wander, he will find the dearest consolation of his exile. Already has


THERE was found on an amethyst (and the same afterwards occurred on the front of an ancient temple) a number of marks or indents, which had long perplexed inquirers; and more particularly as similar marks or indents were frequently observed in ancient monuments. It occurred to the antiquary, Peirese, that these marks were nothing more than holes for small nails, which had formerly fastened little lamina, which represented so many Greek letters. This hint of his own suggested to him to draw lines from one hole to another; and he beheld the amethyst reveal the name of the sculptor, the frieze of the temple, and the name of the god. This curious discovery has been since frequently applied.



Every day some new application of cast iron is made to purposes of

-Glory without end

Scattered the clouds away; and on that name attend

The tears and praises of all time."

general utility, and now a patent has been obtained for metallic caissons, applicable to the construction of piers, harbours, embankments, breakwaters, basins, locks, quays, docks, mill-dams, roads through morasses, foundations of light houses, aqueducts, and other works requiring great expedition or durability. The caisson is a hollow metallic box, open generally both at the bottom and top, the thickness of the sides proportioned to the strength and gravity requir ed, and the mode of uniting being by dove-tail. The results of various calculations of the comparative expense of granite and cast iron caisson works, give from twenty to more than fifty per cent, in favour of the latter, and the advantage in the saving of time, which, in works on the coast, is obviously of the highest importance, it is estimated, will be at least four-fifths in favour of the latter.


When Dr. Franklin was agent in England for the province of Pennsylvania, he was frequently applied to by the ministry for his opinion respecting the operation of the Stamp Act; but his answer was uniformly the same, "that the people of America would never submit to it." After the news of the destruction of the stamped papers had arrived in England, the ministry again sent for the Doctor to consult with; and in conclusion offered this proposal:-"That if the Americans would engage to pay for the damage done in the destruction of the stamped paper, &c. the parliament would then repeal the act." The Doctor having paused upon this question for some time, at last answered it as follows:-This puts me in mind of a Frenchman, who, having heated a poker red-hot, ran furiously into the street, and addressing the first Englishman he met. there," Hah! Monsieur, voulez vous' give me de plaisir, de satisfaction, to let me run this poker only one foot into your body?" "My body!" replied the Englishman: "What do you mean?"" Vel den, only so far," marking about six inches. "Are you mad?" returned the other; "I tell you, if you don't go about your business, I'll knock you down." "Vel den," said the Frenchman, softening his voice and manner; "Vil you, my good Sir, only be so obliging as to pay me for the trouble and expense of heating this poker!"


Bishop Berkeley, among a set of queries, has the following, which are pertinent to existing circumstances: "Whether one may not be allowed to conceive and suppose a society or nation of human creatures, clad in woollen cloths and stuffs; eating good bread, beef, and mutton, poultry, and fish in great plenty; drinking ale, mead, and cider; inhabiting decent houses, built of brick and marble; taking their pleasure in fair parks and gardens; depending on no foreign imports for food and raiment ?"-al

so, "Whether there may not be found a people who so contrive as to be impoverished by their trade?"


Many original, and hitherto unheard of, manuscripts of this celebrated historian and divine have been brought to light in France, and are at present in the course of printing at Paris.


Roll thin writing-paper round a brass or other metal rod, and hold the papered part over the flame of a spirit lamp; the paper will not be singed, nor otherwise injured, owing to the conducting power of the metal on which it is laid. A person made a steel escapement-wheel for a clock, and intended tempering the points of the teeth, by means of a blowpipe; but he failed, owing to the conducting power of the rest of the wheel.

In Paris there are scores of little shops where gentlemen may sit on a raised bench, and read the newspapers whilst a garcon cleans their boots-for two sous. These shops are neatly fitted up, and are generally situated near the theatres or the public promenades.


Mr. W. Ranger, of Brighton, has' succeeded in perfecting an invention, which is intended to be substituted for bricks or stone. It is an artificial stone, much harder than bricks or stone, being equal in durability to granite, and it has also the advantage of being considerably cheaper. Mr. Ranger has been occupied a consi derable time in bringing this discovery to perfection, which he has now so far accomplished, that it is his intention to employ it altogether in the first building which he may erect. It is capable of being modelled to any shape, and in any way that may be desired, and has, when put up, the appearance of Portland stone; of course, no cement is required in the construction of buildings, in which it is employed.

NO. 8.]



BOSTON, JULY 15, 1828.


THE mind of a poet of the highest order is the most perfect mind that can belong to man. There is no intellectual power, and no state of feeling, which may not be the instrument of poetry, and in pro portion as reason, reflection, or sympathy is wanting, in the same degree is the poet restricted in his mastery over the resources of his art. The poet is the great interpreter of nature's mysteries, not by narrowing them into the grasp of the understanding, but by connecting each of them with the feeling which changes doubt to faith. His most gorgeous and varied painting is not displayed as an idle phantasmagoria, but there flows through all its scenes the clear and shining water, which, as wander for delight, or rest for contemplation, perpetually reflects to us an image of our own being. He sympathises with all phenomena by his intuition of all principles; and his mind is a mirror which catches and images the whole scheme and working of the world. He comprehends all feelings, though he only cherishes the best; and, even while he exhibits to us the frenzies or degradations of humanity, we are conscious of an ever-present divinity, elevating and hallowing the evil that surrounds it.


A great poet may be of any time, or rank, or country; a beggar, an outcast, a slave, or even a courtier. The external limits of his social rela

36 ATHENEUM, VOL. 9, 2d series.

[VOL. 9, N. S.

tious may be narrow and wretched as they will, but they will always have an inward universality. In his rags, he is nature's treasurer: though he may be blind, he sees the past and the future, and though the servant of servants, he is ever at large and predominant. But there are things which he cannot be. He cannot be a scorner, or selfish, or luxurious and sensual. He cannot be a self-worshipper, for he only breathes by sympathy, and is its organ; he cannot be untrue, for it is his high calling to interpret those universal truths which exist on earth only in the forms of his creation. He cannot be given up to libertine debauchery; for it is impossible to dwell at once before the starry threshold of Jove's court, and in the den of lewd and drunken revel. It was to Hades, not to Olympus, that the comrades of Ulysses voyaged from the island of Circe; nor can we pass, without long and hard purgation, from the sty to the sanctuary, or from the wine-cup to the fountain of immortality. The poet must be of a fearless honesty; for he has to do battle with men for that which men most dread, the regeneration, namely, of man and yet he must be also of a loving-kindness; for his arms the gentleness of his accents, and the music of all sweet thoughts. Such is the real and perfect poet; and it is only in so far as verse-artisans approach to this, that they are entitled


to that lofty and holy name. But he who is such as has been now described, is indeed of as high and sacred a function as can belong to man. It is not the black garment, nor the precise and empty phrase, which makes men ministers of God; but the communion with that Spirit of God, which was, in all its fulness, upon those mighty poets, Isaiah and Ezekiel; which unrolled its visions over the rocks of Patmos, and is, in larger or smaller measure, the teacher of every bard.

Many of the warmest admirers of poetry will, of course, be shocked at the idea of its being any thing more than an innocent amusement. It is in their eyes a pretty pastime, to be classed with the making of handscreens, or the shooting of partridges, an art not at all more important, and only a little more agreeable, than ropedancing or backgammon, to be resorted to when we are weary of the graver and more difficult operations of summing up figures, or filling sheepskins with legal formulas. These are the persons who are perfectly contented with a poet, if he supplies them with excitement at the least possible expense of thought; who profess that the Fairy Queen is tedious and "uninteresting," who only do not despise Milton, because he is commonly reported to have been a man of genius, who treat Wordsworth as a driveller, and Coleridge as a "dreamer of dreams." And herein they are, perhaps, right; for, being deaf, they have not heard the piping, and how then could they dance? We trust, however, that we have many readers who will agree with us in taking a different view of these matters, and to them we would say a few words about Lord Byron.

No one, probably, will be inclined to maintain, that Lord Byron's poetry produces a good moral effect, except those who are anxious to spread the disbelief of the goodness of God, and to bring about the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes. With such persons, we have at present no quarrel. They are welcome

to their opinions, so far as we are concerned; and we can only lament, for their own sakes, that they should think and feel as they do. To those who, without going so far as these, yet deny that his writings have a bad moral influence, we will give up the advantage to be derived from press ing the two abovementioned points, and put the question on other grounds and we wish to state dis tinctly, that we think, in the first place, Lord Byron (as seen in his writings) had no sympathy with baman nature, and no belief in its goodness; and, secondly, that he had no love of truth. These are grave charges; and, at least, as grave in our eyes as in those of any of our readers. But we are con vinced of the justice of them; and no fear of being classed with the bigots, of being called churchmed rather than Christians, and believers in articles, more than believers in God, shall prevent us from expressing and enforcing our conviction.

The attempt to prove any thing as to the habitual state of mind of a writer, by picking out detached sen tences from his works, we look upon as vain and sophistical; vain, be cause no sentence of any author expresses the same meaning when detached from the context as whee taken along with it; sophistical, be cause the very selection and abruption of these parts indicates a wish to persuade us that we ought to judge of a house from a single brick. The only satisfactory and honest method of estimating an author is, by consi dering the general impression which his works leave upon the mind. Now, if any candid and reflecting man, (or woman,) were to inform us of the influence exerted upon him by the perusal of one of Lord Byron's poems, would not his account be something of this sort--that he had felt inclined to look with scorn and bitterness upon his fellow-creatures, to wrap himself up in his own sel fishness, and to see, in the outward world, not embodyings of that one idea of beauty which prevails in our

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »