Sivut kuvina

Lord Byron has here substituted his own invariable principles for Mr. Bowles's, which he hates as bad as Mr. Southey's variable politics. Will nothing please his Lordship—neither dull fixtures nor shining weather-cocks?—We might multiply instances of a want of continuous reasoning, if we were fond of this sort of petty cavilling. Yet we do not know that there is any better quarry in the book. Why does his Lordship tell us that “ethical poetry is the highest of all poetry,” and yet that “Petrarch the sonnetteer” is esteemed by good judges the very highest poet of Italy? Mr. Bowles is a sonnetteer, and a very good one. Why does he assert that “the poet who executes the best is the highest, whatever his department,” and then affirm in the next page that didactic poetry “requires more mind, more wisdom, more power, than all the forests that ever were walked for their description;” and then again, two pages after, that “a good poet can make a silk purse of a sow's ear:” that is, as he interprets it, “can imbue a pack of cards with more poetry than inhabits the forests of America?” That's a Non Sequitur, as Partridge has it. Why, contending that all subjects are alike indifferent to the genuine poet, does he turn round upon himself, and assume that “the sun shining upon a warming pan cannot be made sublime or poetical ?” Why does he say that “there is nothing in nature like the bust of the Antinous, except the Venus,” which is not in nature?" Why does he call the first “that wonderful creation of perfect beauty,” when it is a mere portrait, and on that account so superior to his favourite coxcomb the Apollo? Why does he state that “more poetry cannot be gathered into existence” than we here see, and yet that this poetry arises neither from nature nor moral exaltednes; Mr. Bowles and he being at issue on this very point, viz. the one affirming that the essence of poetry is derived from nature, and his Lordship, that it consists in moral truth? Why does he consider a shipwreck as an artificial incident? Why does he make the excellence of Falconer's Shipwreck consist in its technicalities, and not in its faithful description of common feelings and inevitable calamity? Why does he say all this, and much more, which he should not? Why does he write prose at all? Yet, in spite of all this trash, there is one passage for which we forgive him, and here it is. “The truth is, that in these days the grand primum mobile of England is cant; cant political, cant poetical, cant religious, cant moral; but always cant, multiplied through all the varieties of life. It is the fashion, and, while it lasts, will be too powerful for those who can only exist by taking the tone of the times. I say cant, because it is a thing of words, without the smallest influence upon human actions; the English being no wiser, no better, and much poorer, and more divided among themselves, as well as far less moral, than they were before the prevalence of this verbal decorum.” These words should be written in letters of gold, as the testimony of a lofty poet to a great moral truth, and we can hardly have a quarrel with the writer of then. There are three questions which form the subject of the present pamphlet; viz. What is poetical? What is natural? What is artificial And we get an answer to none of them. The controversy, as it is carried on between the chief combatants, is much like a dispute between two artists, one of whom should maintain that blue is the only colour fit to paint with, and the other that yellow alone ought ever to be used. Much might be said on both sides, but little to the purpose. Mr. Campbell leads off the dance, and launches a ship as a beautiful and poetical artificial object. But he so loads it with patriotic, natural, and foreign associations, and the sails are “so perfumed that the winds are love-sick,” that Mr. Bowles darts upon and seizes it as contraband to art, swearing that it is no longer the work of the shipwright, but of Mr. Campbell's lofty poetic imagination; and dedicates its stolen beauty to the right owners, the sun, the winds, and the waves. Mr. Campbell, in his eagerness to make all sure, having overstepped the literal mark, presses no farther into the controversy; but Lord Byron, who is “like an Irishman in a row, any body's customer,” carries it on with good polemical hardihood, and runs a very edifying parallel between the ship without the sun, the winds and waves, and the sun, the winds, and waves without the ship. “The sun,” says Mr.

* See Mr. Bowles's Two Letters,

Bowles, “is poetical, by your Lordship's admission.” We think it would have been so without it. But his Lordship contends that “the sun would no longer be poetical, if it did not shine on ships, or pyramids, or fortresses, and other works of art,” (he expressly excludes “footmen's liveries" and “brass warming. pans” from among those artificial objects that reflect new splendour on the eye of Heaven)—to which Mr. Bowles replies, that let the sun but shine, and “it is poetical per se,” in which we think him right. His Lordship decompounds the wind into a caput mortuum of poetry, by making it howl through a pig-stye, instead of

Roaming the illimitable ocean wide;

and turns a water-fall, or a clear spring, into a slop-basin, to prove that nature owes its elegance to art. His Lordship is “ill at these numbers.” Again, he affirms that the ruined temple of the Parthenon is poetical, and the coast of Attica, with Cape Colonna, and the recollection of Falconer's Shipwreck, classical. Who ever doubted it ! What then 2 Does this prove that the Rape of the Lock is not a mock-heroic poem' He assures us that a storm with cock-boats scudding before it is interesting, particularly if this happens to take place in the Hellespont, over which the noble critic swam; and makes it a question whether the dark cypress groves, or the white towers and minarets of Constantinople, are more impressive to the imagination? What has this to do with Pope's grotto at Twickenham, or the boat in which he paddled across the Thames to Kew Lord Byron tells us (and he should know) that the Grand Canal at Venice is a muddy ditch, without the stately palaces by its side; but then it is a natural, not an artificial, canal; and finally, he asks, what would the desert of Tadmor be without the ruins of Palmyra, or Salisbury Plain without Stone-Henge? Mr. Bowles, who, though tedious and teazing, has “damnable iteration in him,” and has read the Fathers, answers very properly, by saying that a desert alone “conveys ideas of immeasurable distance, of profound silence, of solitude;” and that Salisbury Plain has the advantage of Hounslow Heath, chiefly in getting rid of the ideas of artificial life, “carts, caravans, raree-showmen, butchers' boys, coaches with coronets, and livery servants behind them,” even though Stone-Henge did not list its pale head above its barren bosom. Indeed, Lord Byron's notions of art and poetry are sufficiently wild, romantic, far-fetched, obsolete : his taste is Oriental, Gothic; his Muse is not domesticated; there is nothing mimminee-pimminee, modern, polished, light, fluttering, in his standard of the sublime and beautiful: if his thoughts are proud, pampered, gorgeous, and disdain to mingle with the objects of humble, unadorned nature, his lordly eye at least “keeps distance due” from the vulgar vanities of fashionable life; from drawing-rooms, from card-parties, and from courts. He is not a carpet poet. He does not sing the sofa, like poor Cowper. He is qualified neither for poet-laureat nor courtnewsman. He is at issue with the Morning Post and Fashionable World on what constitutes the true pathos and sublime of human life. He hardly thinks Lady Charlemont so good as the Venus, or as an Albanian girl that he saw mending the road in the mountains. If he does not like flowers and forests, he cares as little for stars, garters, and princes' feathers, for diamond necklaces and paste buckles. If his Lordship cannot make up his mind to the quiet, the innocence, the simple, unalterable grandeur of nature, we are sure that he hates the frippery, the foppery, and pert grimace of art, quite as much. His Lordship likes the poetry, the imaginative part of art, and so do we; and so we believe did the late Mr. John Scott. He likes the sombre part of it, the thoughtful, the decayed, the ideal, the spectral shadow of human greatness, the departed spirit of human power. He sympathizes not with art as a display of ingenuity, as the triumph of vanity or luxury, as it is connected with the idiot, superficial, petty self-complacency of the individual and the moment (these are to him not “luscious as locusts, but bitter as coloquintida;”) but he sympathizes with the triumphs of Time and Fate over the proudest works of man—with the crumbling monuments of human glory—with the dim vestiges of countless generations of men—with that which claims alliance with the grave, or kindred with the elements of nature. This is what he calls art and artificial poetry. But this is not what anybody else understands by the terms, commonly or critically speaking. There is as little connection between the two things as between the grand-daughters of Mr. Coutts, who appeared at court the other day, and Lady Godiva–as there is between a reigning toast and an Egyptian mummy. Lord Byron, through the whole of the argument, pelts his reverend opponent with instances, like throwing a stone at a dog, which the incensed animal runs after, picks up, mumbles between his teeth, and tries to see what it is made of The question is, however, too tough for Mr. Bowles's powers of mastication, and, though the fray is amusing, nothing comes of it. Between the Editor of Pope and the Editor of the New Monthly Magazine, his Lordship sits

high arbiter,
And by decision more embroils the fray.

What is the use of taking a work of art, from which “all the art of art is flown,” a mouldering statue, or a fallen column in Tadmor's marble waste, that staggers and overawes the mind, and gives birth to a thousand dim reflections, by seeing the power and pride of man prostate and laid low in the dust; what is there in this to prove the self-sufficiency of the upstart pride and power of man? A ruin is poetical. Because it is a work of art, says Lord Byron. No, but because it is a work of art o'erthrown. In it we see, as in a mirror, the life, the hopes, the labour of man defeated, and crumbling away under the slow hand of time; and all that he has done reduced to nothing, or to a useless mockery. Or as one of the bread-and-butter poets has described the same thing a little differently, in his tale of Peter Bell the potter— The stones and tower Seem'd fading fast away From human thoughts and purposes,

To yield to some transforming power,
And blend with the surrounding trees.

If this is what Lord Byron means by artificial objects, there is an end of the question, for he will get no critic, no school to differ with him. But a fairer instance would be a snug citizen's box by the road-side, newly painted, plastered, and furnished, with every thing in the newest fashion and gloss, not an article

« EdellinenJatka »