Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

quisitiveness with regard to Dr Chalmers. I had the happiness of becoming somewhat acquainted with him ; and I found that my countrymen have almost universally fallen into a mistake with respect to his genius and character. From vague report, and from a perusal of his sermons, many people have imagined Dr Chalmers' peculiar cast of thought and expression to be all a thing got up on purpose to produce a certain eliect. There never was a greater mistake. I never in my life saw a man who had more downright, native simplicity of character. He is as incapable of doing any thing for effect, as of achieving a metempsychosis. His broad dialect, his blunt manners, his homebred honesty of heart, legible in all his looks and actions, are so many guaranties of his godly sincerity. Dr Chalmers composes and preaches just as he talks to a friend, if the subject of conversation is interesting to his own feelings. Touch any department of the cause of christian benevolence or of common philanthropy, one, especially, on which he has been contradicted or opposed, and immediately you kindle him up to the same sublimity of thought and vehemence of emotion, which characterize him as a speaker. It is true that Dr Chalmers is a mannerist, and his manner is wretchedly bad ; that he ought, long ago, to have cast off all this, together with his provincial accent ; that he ought to reduce his ideas to a less unwieldy form ; that his enormous, overgrown sentences should be pruned, and that he should change his action from the style of Vulcan to that of Apollo. But to require a change now, would be unreasonable. The man's physical and intellectual habits are unalterably fixed by early neglect and subsequent inattention. Suppose a person of his age willing to submit to the school-boy drudgery of mending his utterance and his action ; the attempt would, in all probability, be fruitless. Habit is proverbially powerful in New England; but in Scotland it has the merciless sway of a tyrant.

To appreciate or to relish Dr Chalmers, you must give up all the externals of oratory, and take, in exchange, the majestic sweep of his mind; and if you are willing to accept of fervor and vehemence, instead of correctness and grace, you may even come to think of him as a powerful orator.

A mistake of an opposite kind to that made about Dr Chalmers, prevails in the estimation of Mr Irvine. Whilst the former is supposed to be one who artificially works himself up to a certain strain of sublimity, the latter gets the credit of being a man of wonderful originality of genius.

The truth of the matter, as nearly as I could learn, is this. Mr Irvine began the career which has issued in his present popularity, by patching his composition with here and there an imitation of the older writers. Practice makes perfect. The transition from a sentence to a paragraph of imitation gradually became easy ; till, at last, there was found

to be no difficulty in writing a whole discourse in the antique style. Here

you

have the whole secret of the matter. I do not mean to deny Mr Irvine's native talent for grand and elevated conceptions; but I think I have given you a fair history of his progress.

As for the weekly crowd and bustle about his chapel in London, I would not give a rush for it. The inhabitants of that city are always in that state of jaded, yet craving appetite for novel. ty, which induced the ancient monarch to advertise a reward for the discovery of a new pleasure. It is true that men of distinguished intellectual rank resort to the Caledonian chapel ; but it is only because the imitative style of the preacher has now attained its finish. Had Mr Canning seen the dove-tailed piece of work that came under my notice, he would, I suspect, have sided with those of the preacher's Glasgow hearers, who did not care to be favored with a repetition of such matter; but rose and went out as soon as they observed he was about to officiate.

I admit that Mr Irvine's imitations are sometimes very fine ; but what then ?-imitation is but a very ordinary attainment, at its best. The most that we can say about Mr Irvine, is, that he throws a romantic garb over the subject of religion. In this age the world runs mad after romance; and Mr Irvine perhaps thinks it lawful to put on the tragedian's robe, for the sake of attracting notice to his subject.

Adieu.

a

ITALIAN LYRICAL POETRY.

BEMBO.

The Italians pride themselves on ranking among their poets, and among those of the highest class, many of their first nobles, ecclesiastics, philosophers, and statesmen, who sought relief from severer studies or from the cares of life, in the cultivation of elegant literature. Of this number, and an illustrious name in the list of the restorers of Italian poetry, was the Cardinal Pietro Bembo.

His father was a patrician of Venice, honoured in his time with many high offices, and still more honored by posterity for his patronage of learned men, and his having renovated the tomb of Dante in Ravenna. Pietro was born at Venice in 1470; and from the earliest age he zealously improved the advantages which the taste and condition of his father afforded him for the study of literature, philosophy, and the arts. After his arrival at manhood he was occasionally employed in the public service of his native country, but more in the indulgence of his fondness for study, and in the pursuit of knowledge in the most refined cities of Italy. The reputation which he there acquired, caused Leo X., on his accession to the pontifical dignity, to make Bembo his first secretary. In the luxurious court of this epicurean pontiff, Bembo lived in the enjoyment of all the pleasures of taste, wealth, and rank ; and even yielded so far to the example of the age as to assume a degree of license in his manners wholly unsuited to his profession and station. In his official character, however, he is without reproach, and his letters are remarkable for their pure and elegant latinity, his style being exactly modelled upon that of Cicero, whom he copied with scrupulous exactness amounting to affectation.

In 1520 Bembo retired from Rome to Padua for the benefit of his health, and his patron, Leo X., dying about that time, he determined not to return to Rome. He continued at Padua, therefore, attracted by the splendid collections of books and monuments of art in that polished city. Whilst here, he entirely reformed his morals; and here he conceived the plan and wrote a great part of his History of Venice. In 1539 he was honoured with the purple by Pope Paul III., when he transferred his residence to Rome. He remained there until he died, in 1547, at the advanced age of seventy-seven years, a patriarch in letters as he was in the church, the friend of all the distinguished literary men of the age, and loaded with public distinctions.

His literary reputation depends chiefly, perhaps, upon his prose writings ; but his rank as an Italian poet, nevertheless, is such as to entitle him to this extended notice here. He was one of the earliest to discriminate, by his example and his precepts, purer principles of taste than had generally prevailed among his immediate predecessors. He took Petrarca for his guide, and by the diligent study of his writings acquired a comparatively correct and pure style of composition, though he was unable to divest himself altogether of a certain stiffness of manner, incompatible with the highest poetic excellence. In fact, his poetical reputation was derived rather from the polished elegance of his style, than from any depth of sentiment or thought which he displayed; for though always chaste, he is often cold and insipid ; and therefore his character has never stood so high with posterity as it did with his contemporaries.

His poems, consist of Rime, from which the following sonnets are selected.

TO ITALY.

Fair land, once loved of heaven o'er all beside,

Which blue waves gird and lofty mountains screen ;
Thou clime of fertile fields and sky serene,
Whose gay expanse the Appennines divide ;

What boots it now, that Rome's old warlike pride

Left thee of humbled earth and sea the queen ?
Nations, that served thee then, now fierce convene

To tear thy locks and strew them o'er the tide.
And lives there son of thine so base at core,

Who, luring foreign friends to thine embrace,

Stabs to the heart thy beauteous, bleeding frame?
Are these the noble deeds of ancient fame?

Thus do ye God's almighty name adore ?
Oh hardened age! oh false and recreant race !

TURNING TO GOD.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

If, gracious God, in life's green, ardent year

A thousand times thy patient love I tried ;
With reckless heart, with conscience hard and sear,

Thy gifts perverted, and thy power defied :
Oh grant me, now that wintry snows appear

Around my brow, and youth's bright promise hide,-
Grant me with reverential awe to hear
Thy holy voice, and in thy word confide;
Blot from my book of life its early stain ;

Sinoe days misspent will never more return,

My future path do thou in mercy trace;
So cause my soul with pious zeal to burn,

That all the trust, which in thy name I place,
Frail as I am, may not prove wholly vain.

GUIDICCIONI.

Giovanni GuidiCCIONI was born at Lucca in the year 1500. He was educated at the best Italian universities by his uncle, the Cardinal Bartolommeo Guidiccioni, who finally carried him to Rome and placed him in the service of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, afterwards Pope Paul III. ; in which situation he had access to the society of the first literary men of the city, and contracted a very close friendship with the poet Annibal Caro. In 1534 his patron was raised to the pontificate, and afterwards constantly employed him in the highest offices of the papal see, both at home and abroad, until his premature death in 1541, which alone prevented his receiving the purple. As a literary man, he is most eminent for his poems. His style is particularly adapted to grave and heroic subjects ; and on these, in the opinion of the Italian critics, it is impossible for any style to be more select in diction or to possess greater nobleness and sustained dignity. His chief blemish is an occasional obscurity, arising from his aiming too sedulously at compressed strength. The two foilowing are among the most admired of his sonnets.

TO ROME.

Thou noble nurse of many a warlike chief,

Who in more brilliant times the world subdued ;
Of old, the shrines of gods in beauty stood

Within thy walls, where now are shame and grief;
I hear thy broken voice demand relief,

And sadly o'er thy faded fame I brood, -
Thy pomps no more,—thy temples fallen and rude, -

Thine empire shrunk within a petty fief.
Slave as thou art, if such thy majesty

Of bearing seems, thy name so holy now,

That even thy scattered fragments I adore ;-
How did they feel, wbo saw thee throned on high

In pristine splendor, while thy glorious brow
The golden diadem of nations bore?

TO ITALY.

From ignominious sleep, where age on age

Thy torpid faculties have slumbering lain,
Mine Italy, enslaved, ay more, insane,

Wake, and behold thy wounds with noble rage.
Rouse, and with generous energy engage

Once more thy long-lost freedom to obtain ;
The path of honour yet once more regain,

And leave no blot upon my country's page.
Thy haughty lords, who trample o'er thee now,

Have worn the yoke, which bows to earth thy neck,
And graced thy triumphs in thy days of fame.
Alas ! thine own most deadly foe art thou,

Unhappy land ; thy spoils the invader deck,
While self-wrought chains thine infamy proclaim !

C. C.

ORIGINAL POETRY.

THE GRAVES OF THE PATRIOTS.
Here rest the great and good-here they repose
After their generous toil. A sacred band,
They take their sleep together, while the year
Comes with its early flowers to deck their graves,
And gathers them again, as Winter frowns.
Theirs is no vulgar sepulchre-green sods
Are all their monument, and yet it tells
A nobler history, than pillared piles,
Or the eternal pyramids. They need
No statue nor inscription to reveal
Their greatness. It is round them, and the joy

« ZurückWeiter »