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But from that day, also, M. de Lamartine took political rank among royalists, and religious rank among Christians. His political creed at that time manifested itself in the motto to his first publication—" Meditations Poétiques," in 1820, viz., “ab Jove principium.” This sublime axiom, inscribed on the first page of a book dedicated by a royalist to the most ultra-royalists in power, M. Chateaubriand, and others, was received as it was intended, viz., as an acknowledgment of the divine right from which both kings and poets derive their power. This toadyism, and his subserviency to the returned Bourbons, procured for him the appointinent of attachée to the legation at Florence.
Through marriage with an English lady, he gained a fortune, which was increased by the death of his uncle, and his Bourbon loyalty promoted him to the secretaryship of the legation at Naples and at London. He nearly ruined himself with his employers, however, by his “ Death of Sa crates," in which, seduced by the imposing spectacle of a great man victimized to popular fury, he somewhat abated his flunkeyism, and the work was less successful. He made speedy amends, however, in a new work, called “ Nouvelles Meditations Poetiques," in which the political toadyism of the first publication, on which he had thriven so well, was “enlarged and improved," and first impressions were revived in his favor. His natural and inordinate vanity was so excited by this success, that he had the folly to attempt to add a fifth canto to Childe Harold.
The only relief from the ridicule this excited, was his narrow escape from death in a duel with a Neapolitan officer, who challenged him for the supposed libels on Italy which his spurious canto contained. Following the maxim of the Stuarts and most despotic kings, viz., that, “ to take a stone from the Church is to take two from the throne,” M. Lamartine now published his " Harmonies Religieuses," in which the elegy ran into the canticle. It would seem that the profitable, but rather uncertain Christianity expressed in the first “ meditations,” confirmed and softened by family affections, had become confirmed into the steady purpose of a Christian sure of his object. The dreams, instead of losing themselves on the borders of lakes, soared towards heaven, and became prayers. This aided him in procuring admission as a member of the Academy, and getting the appointment of minister to Greece from the tottering government of Charles X. Before he entered upon this new duty, the revolution of July shifted, as by sleight of hand, the occupant of the throne. The family that M. Lamartine had toadied from 1817 to 1830, gave place to the one which he had perseveringly attacked, and point was now given to those attacks, by stupidly publishing new editions with the most pungent satires upon the House of Orleans stricken out. The rigidity of his monarchical principles, and the power of royal commands over his pliant mind, was apparent in the Chant du Sacre, wherein, as the official instrument of Charles X., the lyre emitted the following strain :
Le fils a racheté les crimes de son pere.” The finger of d’Orleans, become royal, interfered, however, and the lyre changed its note to the following :
“ Le fils a racheté les armes de son pere." It is not to be supposed that M. Lamartine belongs to that mercenary
race of mortals who change with the caprices of the fickle goddess, keeping always the shoulder turned to misfortune, and the knee pliant to prosperity. The glory of great genius is not to be influenced by those causes which raise or destroy thrones. Their place is above all political changes. They belong to an age, and not to a reign—to a nation, and not to a party only. The motives which influence other men cannot be ascribed to them, because they are unaffected by the same circumstances. Neither the driving clouds nor the raging storm affect the eagle, because he builds his eyrie above the influence of either.
But if these privileged men escape the weaknesses of ordinary mortals, they have also their shoals and perils; they in effect are not men, but are lyres; they neither feel por think, they vibrate; they do not speak, they resound; each ruffle of the wind, each murmur from heaven, from earth, or from beneath it, glides over the chords, and draws thence a sound always melodious, never passionate. From being thus forced to sing all that affects then, they end by not being affected by anything that they sing, and they acquire the faculty of responding with sublime notes to everything which touches them, with the indifference of an instrument which obeys every hand without being devoted to any.
It was thus with M. Lamartine. The restoration was to France a royalist era, and feudal reminiscences, mingled with the public manners, histories, literature, and even the caprices of fashion, were influenced by the revived royalty; accordingly, the lyre responded aristocratically to the surrounding agitation-a throne fell-a new state of things presented itself —a sort of interregnum between a departing dynasty and the accession of a new one. The whirl of events drew from the passive instrument only confused and rapid sounds.
However willing he might have been to sing the glories of the Orleans dynasty, the unforgiving nature of the Bourbons seemed to present an obstacle ; and the poet, turning politician, offered himself as opposition candidate for the deputyship from Dunkerque and from Toulon, but was defeated, of course, and the harp hung on the willows.
Greedy of new impressions, however, M. Lamartine set out for the East, surrounded with a princely pageantry. It is not a little singular that the man who, in 1848, was so eloquent in favor of black emancipation, in 1832 left Marseilles for the East with a large retinue, which was swollen by numbers of slaves, purchased, not for the indispensable culture of the ground, but to swell the pomp of a royalist poet, about to become publican politician. He trod that land at once sacred and profane, depository of the most profound truths and the lightest fables, Mahometan guardian of the cradle of Christianity, with wavering step. In the soul of M. Lamartine, as in the splendid horizon of that latitude, where the mists seem luminous, and where the light is bathed in mist, truths and fables, Mahometanism and Christianity, mingled in wild confusion, and the “ lute” received a new impulse, under which it emitted a new song—that of universal tolerance—where all religious dogmas are to be treated with equal respect. One step further, and the poet arrived at the last shoal of modern dreamers—viz., pantheism, a brilliant Utopia, where they love to define the great first cause, sometimes as good, sometimes as nature. again as mind, and also as form. That deification of matter found still a responsive chord in the indefatigable lyre, and that powerful but insensate chord exhaled the “ Chute d'un Ange.”
This whimsical production of M. de Lamartine is, we believe, the only one of his works which had not a happy destiny. It may be supposed to occupy, in the domain of fiction, a place analogous to that occupied by the history or romance of the “ Girondins” in that of reality. It is written with the same vigorous and ardent style, drawing the reader through its misrepresentations, false deductions and errors, as the indomitable horse of Mazeppa drew its hapless rider through the brush and briars of the Ukraine. There are the same traces of rapid improvisation, arrogant negligence, and superb contempt for the finish of details. It is still pantheism, leaving remote traditions, in order to apply itself to the events of recent history; social pantheism, finding its gods everywhere—in the utterance of the forum, in the bureau of the pamphleteer, on the lips of the demagogue, in the street, in the gutter, in the malice of the murderer, and in the appetite of the cannibal; and, regarded from the political position occupied by the author for more than twenty years, his patrons were justified in regarding it equally as the "fall of an angel."
The return to France from the East was followed by a return to politics; and the poet, being returned as deputy from Dunkerque, had an opportunity for oratorical display. But his strange enigmatical orations were understood by few persons, and cared for by a still less number. Gradually, however, the subjects on which he spoke being generally of literary or moral natures, such as against capital punishment, in favor of foundlings, &c., giving scope to his rhapsodical transcendental style, made up of unmeaning phrases and pointless sentences, gradually won for him the position of mouth-piece for the socialists, a party without either definite ends or means to attain them, but whose principles were beautifully expressed by M. Lamartine in defining his own views :
“ The organic and progressive constitution of the entire democracy, the diffusive principle of mutual charity and social fraternity, organized and applied to the satisfaction of the interests of the masses.
• The beautiful is the virtue of the intellect. In restricting its worship, let us beware of impairing the virtue of the heart.”
The socialists only pretended to understand this style of oratory, and they said, in the classic language of a member of parliament, Them's our sentiments,” and they recognized him as their leader. But M. Lamartine, although generally considered only as the poet, and his sayings merely as ornamental, and without any other value, was gradually improving in oratory, when, in the winter of 1847, he produced his Histoire des Girondins.
Before he arrived at the political position defined in the Girondins, M. Lamartine had successively traversed the social party, that fools' paradise, which is always the sequence of revolutions, the royalist party, the liberal party; and now, when a new change was to be made, what resource was left? It may here be remarked, that men of great genius never content themselves either with the past or the present, or both. The greater the idea which they form of their own mission, the greater is their tendency to limit its operation to the time beyond that in which they have their own being. It seems to them, so much are they exalted above vulgar minds, that the future, dread oracle which we turn pale in interrogating, is their natural state of being, and that the most cruel humiliation that they can possibly suffer, would be to be useless to the persons they imagine around them. To be available in all new combinations; to be assured a place
under all circumstances, is the object of these sublimated intellects. To be always in men's minds, never forgotten; to think and to govern still with the thoughts and the governments that exist no more; to give to no one either the right or the pretext to pronounce those terrible words, the eternal nightmare of celebrated men : “ He has played his part. Behold the end to which he aspired, and for which he sacrificed all.”
It was thus with M. Lamartine : after having been royalist, socialist, conservative and liberal, by turns, he seized on the History of the Revolution. With his eyes fixed on the future, and his finger pointing to the past, foreseeing the possibility of new commotions, he sought to be at the same time historian and prophet, and, like Prometheus, to knead, to mould and vivify the blood-sprinkled dust into the ideal model of a revolution. Thus, by subserviency, to identify himself by turns with all that occurred, and through prophecy, with all that might occur, seemed to be the doublé inspiration of the Girondins. In this point of view, it is easy to explain his re-production of the revolutionary genius from Voltaire, the intellectual projector, to Robespierre, the pitiless practitioner. When M. Lamartine says of Dumouriez :
“ He had no political principles; the revolution was to him nothing more than a fine drama, which was to furnish a grand scene for his abilities, and a part for his genius"
We recognize at once the involuntary assimilation and the disclosure of his own secret aspirations. Again he writes of Robespierre:
“ He was of no party, but of all parties which in their turn served his ideal of the revolution. He placed this ideal as an end to reach in every revolutionary movement, and advanced towards it with those who sought to attain it ; then this goal reached, he placed it still farther off, and again marched forward with other men."
He seems here to have betrayed his most intimate thought, and in the guise of Robespierre, he involuntarily describes himself, and reveals his own most cherished aspirations. Who would have supposed that the author of the Harmonies, the poet who hung over the cradle of a royal infant, and chanted piously of heavenly joys and princely hopes, would one day be recognized in a self-drawn portrait of Robespierre ? If Robespierre, modeling himself upon Rousseau, became heartless, bloodthirsty and tyrannical, what may not Lamartine become, modeling himself upon Robes- . pierre?
That example must, however, prove a consolation to those only endowed with common sense. The poor laborers, bent under burdens that they can scarcely raise, and are yet not able entirely to abandon; struggling incessantly against that torture of imperfect beings, the impotence to realize the sentiments borne within them, may complain of not being great enough to delight in their destiny, of not being small enough to be content in their obscurity. But if mediocrity has its disadvantages, it has also its indemnities. An humble individual, who held honestly the sentiments which M. Lamartine professed during his apprenticeship to the restoration, would, in speaking of Louis XVI., have bowed himself in spirit to a king, a martyr, and a saint, as described by our poet; that illustrious writer, however, changes the picture at will, extenuates the horror he formerly expressed for regicides, and talks of the faults of the king and the rights of his judges. The early readers of Lamartine would, in recalling the memory of Marie Antoinette, have wished each line of the page and each syllable of utterance to become a reparation, full of respectful love, and an energetic protestation against the monsters who calumniated and the assassins who murdered her. M. Lamartine has, however, become niggardly of his respect to her memory, grudges his allegiance, and outrages his former friends, by doubts, insinuations, and suppressions! As a royalist, M. Lamartine regarded d'Orleans as an impure prince, a parricide to his country, a traitor to his family, a shame to his party, a disgrace to his age, and as the vile instrument which the revolution accepted with contempt, and rejected with disgust! In the new shading which the poet gives to that picture, there are attempts to erase the ineffaceable infámy of his character, and to soften the disgusting prominence in infamy with which, over the heads of Domitian and Marat, Philippe Egalité stands out upon the page of history. For this purpose is falsified contemporaneons history, the judgment of a later age, and the great voice of the human race, which curses, in reverberating tones, the perjured, the apostate, and the parricide. The general character of these remarks will apply, not only to the three names enumerated, but to most of the others in the volume.
M. Lamartine following, apparently, no regular plan, did not produce, in the commencement of the work, one of those fecund ideas, or immutable principles, which, in the hands of a Bossuet, serve to group around one general axiom all the particular facts of the narration—to arrange under one eternal truth all the truths of history. His genius being improvisatory, is susceptible of the most diverse impressions. He is royalist at heart, conservative by party, and republican by accident. He wanders among the persons and events of that terrible epoch as a traveler, who takes no guide, in order to admire more freely; to seek out discoveries at pleasure, and to pause when it pleases himself. Hence the charming picturesqueness of the work; hence, also, its utter want of unity. Never, perhaps, was more clearly apparent the triumph of individual power, exalting itself above even the events, substituting for the truth its own ideal creations invented and modified to its own liking, to such a degree that a sort of antithesis establishes itself between the persons, as M. Lamartine describes them, and as he presents them through the inferences, logically drawn, from facts stated. Thus M. Lamartine draws an ideal portrait of Madame Roland, and then throws it in relief, by stating facts in relation to her vindictive plots against the court and the queen; the evil counsels she gave her husband, and the execrable infamy of the letter written confidentially to the king, solely to be kept as an instrument of accusation against him. The illustrious poet is continually apologizing in words, for the infamous acts which he relates, of all the characters he describes. Everywhere, accompanying or following a flattering portrait, of which the great poet has himself shaded the brilliant colors, appears an ignoble, dishonorable, or atrocious fact, which bespatters all the splendid tints and delicate outlines with blood or dirt. The most prompt refutation of Lamartine's judgments are his facts. He has sought to appeal from the instructions of history to the judgments of his genius; but, on the contrary, the instructions of history destroy the judgments of his genius.
M. Lamartine, to whom his first renown did not suffice, sought, in changing his position, to change his attributes. He who was willing to become serious when no longer young; who had transformed himself from a poet