페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

style. Like the sculptors who led their pupils to the anatomy of the human frame, and the painters who 5 introduced the practice of drawing from the human figure, Wordsworth opposed, to the artificial and declamatory, the clear and natural in diction. He exhibited, as it were, a new source of the elements of expression. He endeavored, and with singular success, 10 to revive a taste for less exciting poetry. He boldly tried the experiment of introducing plain viands at a banquet, garnished with all the art of gastronomy.

He offered to substitute crystal water for ruddy wine, and invited those aecustomed only to “a sound of rev- 15 elry by night,” to go forth and breathe the air of mountains, and gaze into the mirror of peaceful lakes. He aimed to pursuade men that they could be “moved by gentler excitements ” than those of luxury and violence. He essayed to calm their beating hearts, to cool their 20 fevered blood, to lead them gently back to the fountains that “go softly.” He bade them repose

their throbbing brows

upon the lap of Nature. He quietly advocated the peace of rural solitude, the pleasure of evening walks among the hills, as more salutary than more ostentatious 25 amusements. The lesson was suited to the period. It came forth from the retirement of Nature as quietly as a zephyr; but it was not lost in the hum of the world. Insensibly it mingled with the noisy strife, and subdued it to a sweeter murmur. It fell upon the heart of youth, 30 and its passions grew calmer. It imparted a more harmonious tone to the meditations of the poet. It tempered the aspect of life to many an eager spirit, and gradually weaned the thoughtful from the encroachments of false taste and conventional habits. To a commercial 35 people, it portrayed the attractiveness of tranquillity. Before an unhealthy and flashy literature, it set up a standard of truthfulness and simplicity. In an age of

mechanical triumph, it celebrated the majestic resources of the universe.

40 To this calm voice from the mountains, none could listen without advantage. What though its tones were sometimes monotonous, — they were hopeful and serene. To listen exclusively, might indeed prove wearisome; but in some placid moments thọse mild echoes could not 45 but bring good cheer. In the turmoil of cities, they refreshed from contrast; among the green fields, they inclined the mind to recognize blessings to which it is often insensible. There were ministers to the passions, and apostles of learning, sufficient for the exigencies of 50 the times. Such an age could well suffer one preacher of the simple, the natural, and the true; one advocate of a wisdom not born of books, of a pleasure not obtained from society, of a satisfaction underived from outward activity. And such a prophet proved William 55 Wordsworth.

EXERCISE XI.

Characteristics of Bonaparte's Ambition.—CHANNING.

The burst of admiration, which his early career called forth, must have had a particular influence in imparting to his ambition that modification by which it was characterized, and which contributed alike to its success and its fall. He began with astonishing the world, with pro

5 ducing a sudden and universal sensation, such as modern times had not witnessed. To astonish as well as to sway by his energies, became the great aim of his life. Henceforth to rule was not enough for Bonaparte. He want ed to amaze, to dazzle, to overpower men's souls, by 10 striking, bold, magnificent, and unanticipated results.

To govern ever so absolutely would not have satisfied him, if he must have governed silently. He wanted to reign through wonder and awe, by the grandeur and terror of his name, by displays of power which would 15 rivet on him every eye, and make him the theme of every tongue. Power was his supreme object, but a power which should be gazed at as well as felt, which should strike men as a prodigy, which should shake old thrones as an earthquake, and, by the suddenness of its 20 new creations, should awaken something of the submissive wonder which miraculous agency inspires.

Such seems to have been the distinction, or characteristic modification of his love of fame. It was a diseased passion for a kind of admiration, which, from the princi- 25 ples of our nature, cannot be enduring, and which demands for its support perpetual and more stimulating novelty. Mere esteem he would have scorned. Calm admiration, though universal and enduring, would have been insipid. He wanted to electrify, to overwhelm. 30 He lived for effect. The world was his theatre; and he cared little what part he played, if he might walk the sole hero on the stage, and call forth bursts of applause, which would silence all other fame. In war, the triumphs which he coveted were those in which he seemed 35 to sweep away his foes like a whirlwind; and the immense and unparalleled sacrifice of his own soldiers, in the rapid marches and daring assaults to which he owed his victories, in no degree diminished their worth to the victor. In peace, he delighted to hurry through his do- 40 minions ; 'to multiply himself by his rapid movements ; to gather at a glance the capacities of improvement which every important place possessed; to suggest plans which would startle by their originality and vastness; to project in an instant, works which a life could not 45 accomplish, and to leave behind the impression of super

human energy

EXERCISE XII.

Filial Affection.— SHERIDAN.

a

Filial love! the morality of instinct, the sacrament of nature and duty, — or rather let me say, it is miscalled a duty; for it flows from the heart without effort, and is its delight, its indulgence, its enjoyment. It is guided not by the slow dictates of reason ; it awaits not encour- 5 agement from reflection or from thought; it asks no aid of memory; it is an innate, but active consciousness of having been the object of a thousand tender solicitudes, a thousand waking, watchful cares, of meek anxiety and patient sacrifices, unremarked and unrequited by the 10 object. It is a gratitude founded upon a conviction of obligations, not remembered, but the more binding because not remembered ; because conferred before the tender reason could acknowledge, or the infant memory record them, a gratitude and affection, which no cir- 15 cumstances should subdue, and which few can strengthen; an affection, which can be increased only by the decay of those to whom we owe it, and which is then most fervent when the tremulous voice of

age,

resistless in its feebleness, inquires for the natural protector of its 20 cold decline.

If these are the general sentiments of man, what must be their depravity, what must be their degeneracy, who can blot out and erase from the bosom the virtue that is deepest rooted in the human breast, and twined within 25 the cords of life itself! Surely, no language can fully portray the enormity of their guilt, or express the depth of their degradation, if they do thus crush this instinct of nature, and obliterate from their hearts this handwriting of the Almighty !

30

EXERCISE XIII.

The Genius of Shakspeare.-JEFFREY.

In many points, Mr. Hazlitt has acquitted himself excellently; particularly in the development of the principal characters with which Shakspeare has peopled the fancies of all English readers, — but principally, we think, in the delicate sensibility with which he has 5 traced, and the natural eloquence with which he has pointed out, that familiarity with beautiful forms and images, — that eternal recurrence to what is sweet or majestic in the simple aspect of nature, that indestructible love of flowers and odors, and dews and clear wa- 10 ters, and soft airs and sounds, and bright skies, and woodland solitudes, and moonlight bowers, which are the material elements of poetry, — and that fine sense of their undefinable relations to mental emotion, which is its essence and vivifying soul, and which, in the 15 midst of Shakspeare's most busy and atrocious scenes, falls like gleams of sunshine on rocks and ruins, trasting with all that is rugged and repulsive, and reminding us of the existence of purer and brighter elements, - which he alone has poured out from the rich- 20 ness of his own mind without effort or restraint, and contrived to intermingle with the play of all the passions, and the vulgar course of this world's affairs, without deserting for an instant the proper business of the scene, or appearing to pause or digress from love of or- 25 nament or need of repose; he alone, who, when the subject requires it, is always keen, and worldly, and practical, and who yet, without changing his hand, or stopping his course, scatters around him as he goes, all sounds and shapes of sweetness, and conjures up land- 30

con

[ocr errors]
« 이전계속 »