« 前へ次へ »
** * * * of selected diction. On the other hand, in passages of vivid, and especially of tumultuary and hurried description, the force of the poet's thought, and the intenseness of the feeling excited, ought to support his language. He may be then permitted to strip himself as to a combat, and to evince, that “brave neglect” of the forms of versification which express an imagination too Inuch exalted, and a mind too much occupied by the subject itself, to regard punctiliously the arrangement of rhymes or the measurement of stanzas. In this point of view, few themes present themselves which can better authorize a daring flight than that which has been selected by the author of Talavera. The poem opens with the following stanza, of which the first nine lines are an exquisite picture of repose, and the last somewhat more feebly and prosaically expressed.
* "Twas dark; from every mountain head
The attack of the French is then described with all the peculiar cir. cumstances of uncertainty and horrour that aggravate the terrours of midnight conflict. The doubtful and suppressed sounds which announce to the defenders the approach of the assailants; the rush of the former to meet and anticipate the charge; the reflection on those who fall without witnesses to their valour; and all the “wonders of that gloomy fight,”
foolish fashion, which, like every false and unnatural circumstance, tends obviously to destroy the probability of the scene, has been discarded by good taste ever since the publication of Addison's Campaign. The approach of the Gallick army is beautifully described.
“And is it now a goodly sight,
Our bounds will not permit us to quote the opening of the battle, though it contains some passages of great merit. Realizing his narrative with an art, which has been thought almost irreconcilable with poetry, the author next undertakes to give us a distinct idea of those manoeuvres and movements upon which the success of the day depended; and by clothing them with the striking circumstances which hide the otherwise technical and somewhat familiar detail of the gazette, he has succeeded at once in preserving the form and leading circumstances, and “all the current of the heady fight;" and, generally speaking, in presenting them to the fancy in a manner as poetical as they are clear to the understanding. In treading, however, upon a line so very narrow, he has sometimes glided into bombast on the one hand, or into flat, bald, and vulgar expressions on the other. Although, for instance, the word “ fire-locks” be used technically, and somewhat pedantically, to express the men who bear them, we cannot permit a poet to speak with impunity of
“Full fifty thousand muskets bright Led by old warriours trained to fight.”
Spears, we know, is used for spearmen; but this is a license sanctioned by antiquity, and not to be extended to modern implements of war. In other places, the ardour of the poet is expressed in language too turgid and inflated. But the following stanza may safely be quoted as avoiding, under very difficult circumstances, the extremes of simplicity and bombast; and describing the celebrated charge of the British cavalry with a spirit worthy of those whose gallantry was so memorable on that memorable day: *
“Three columns of the flower of France,
The miscarriage of this gallant body of cavalry amid the broken #. in which the French again ormed their column, its causes and consequences, the main battle itself, and all its alternations of success, are described in the same glowing and vivid language; which we will venture to say is not that of one who writes with a view to his own distinction as a poet, but who feels that living fire glow within him which impels him to fling into verse his animated and enthusiastick feelings of exultation on contemplating such a subject as the battle of Talavera. The following description of a circumstance new to the terrours of battle, we shall insert, ere we take our leave of Talavera;
* ". *
“But shooting high and rolling far,
Such as 'twould freeze the tongue to
tell, And chill the heart to hear, When to the very field of fight, Dreadful alike in sound and sight,
The conflagration spread, Involving in its fiery wave, The brave and relicks of the brave;
The dying and the dead!”
We have shunned, in the present instance, the unpleasant task of pointing out, and dwelling upon individual inaccuracies. There are several hasty expressions, flat lines, and deficient rhymes, which prove to us little more than that the composition was a hurried one. These, in a poem of a different description, we should have thought it our duty to point out to the notice of the author. But, after all, it is the spirit of a poet that we consider as demanding our chief attention; and upon its ardour or rapidity must finally hinge our applause or condemnation. We care as little (comparatively, that is to say) for the minor arts of composition and versification as Falstaff did for the thews, and sinews, and outward composition of his recruits. It is “ the heart, the heart,” that makes the poet as well as the soldier; and while we shall not withhold some applause even from the ordinary statuary who executes a common figure, our wreath must be reserved for the Prometheus who shall impregnate his statue with fire from heaven.
the publick service. We consider the doctor simply as a traveller into a country imperfectly known among us; and possessing some advantages as a privileged person by his profession. While waiting for a promised appointment at Gibraltar, he visited Larache; the governour of which place he happily relieved from a dangerous malady. In a second journey, he had the honour of prescribing for his Moorish majesty; for his principal sultana, and others, at Fez. He took an opportunity of travelling to Morocco, etc. further south; and the observations he made during these excursions, form the body of his volume. We regret exceedingly to learn from Dr. B’s preface, that the imputation of impoliteness should, with any appearance of plausibility, attach to the venerable sovereign of the United Kingdom, on a charge of not answering a letter addressed to him from the potentate of Morocco; for though written in Arabick, it were scandalous to suppose that none in the British dominions could translate it. The French, to do them justice, would have profited by the opportunity, and would have turned such a correspondence to good account, either now or hereafter. Why cannot John Bull emulate what is coinmendable in that people, without imitating what is ridiculous or profligate 2 Leaving the secretary of state to defend his reputation by the best arguments in his power, we direct our attention to the traveller. Dr. B. estimates the importance of Ceuta, as a fortress, very highly. It is now in the hands of our countrymen. He says: “Convoys could collect here in safety, and our trade in this sea be comparatively secure from annoyance.” The following ceremony has something patriarchal in it:
“In passing through villages (which in this part are very numerous, and formed of a much greater collection of tents than those described in a former-letter) we
Vol. v. M
were received by a great concourse of men, women, and children, slouting, and making a noise exactly resembling the whoop of the North American savages. I was informed, that this was their usual mode of expressing their joy and mirth, on all great and solemn occasions. A venerable Moor, the chief of the surrounding villages, accompanied by the military and civil officers, and by the principal inhabitants, advanced to kiss the garment of his excellency. This ceremony was closed by a train of women, preceded by an elderly matron, carrying a standard of colours, made of various fillets of silks; and by a young one of great beauty, supporting on her head a bowl of fresh milk, which she presented, first to the governour (or, as he is otherwise called, the sheik) then to me, and afterwards to all the officers. This ceremony is always performed by the prettiest young woman of the village; and it not unfrequently happens, that her beauty captivates the affections of the great men (sometimes even the emperour) and she becomes the legitimate and favourite wife.”
We do not think much of a Moorish review, as to tacticks; but as a political spectacle, it is, we doubt not, sufficiently imposing. When describing it, Dr. B. incidentally mentions other customs of that people.
“I was at the palace precisely at four o'clock, and in a few minutes the emperour appeared, mounted on a beautiful white horse, attended by an officer of state, holding over him a large, damask umbrella, most elegantly embroidered, and followed by all his great officers, bodyguards, and a numerous band of musick. He was greeted with huzzas, in the Moorish style, by the populace, and received at all the gates and avenues of the town, with a general discharge of artillery and small arms, the people falling upon their knees in the dust as he passed. The streets were covered with mats, and the road, as far as the plain where the troops were drawn out, was strowed with all kinds of flowers.
“The army was formed into a regular street of three deep on each side, each corps distinguished by a standard; it extended to a great length, through the immense plain of Fez, and presented a grand military spectacle. There were not less than eighty thousand cavalry. This review was finished in six hours, and his imperial majesty was so much pleased with the steady, orderly, and soldier-like appearance of his troops, that he commanded a horse to be given to each of the officers, and an additional suit of clothes, and six ducats more than is customary to the men. No other exercise was performed on this occasion, than charging, firing off their pieces, and priming and loading at full gallop, by alternate divisions. Thus an incessant fire was kept up during the day.”
“The cavalry are, unquestionably, most capital marksmen, and very capable of annoying, and harassing, and checking the progress of an invading army. The men are stout, strong, and robust, accustomed to a continual state of warfare, and, from their simple and moderate manner of living, fully adequate to sustain the fatigues and privations of the most arduous campaign.”
The character of the present emperour is a relief to the mind, fatigued with the spectacle of unvarying despotism, as a grove of palm trees refreshes the eye, when beheld after traversing a sandy desert.
His predecessor was famous for cruelty; and his elder brothers were leading their subjects to slaughter in the field, before his accession. May we not regard him as an instance of the advantages derived from preparatory study ? even though that study was directed rather to literature than to politicks. Nothing can be so desirable to a despotick prince, intending to do well, as the habit of sedateness, reflection, and self-possession.
“The present emperour, Muley Solyman, was the youngest prince, and lived retired in the city of Fez, assiduously occupied in studying the Alcoran, and the laws of the empire, in order to qualify himself for the office of high-priest, which he was intended to fill. From this retreat he was called by the priests, the highest in repute as saints, in the neighbourhood of Fez, and a small party of the Moorish militia, and by them prevailed upon to come forward as a candidate for the crown, in opposition to his three brothers, who were waging war with each other, at the head of numerous forces. In the midst of this anarchy and confusion, the young prince was proclaimed emperour, at Fez, by the name of Muley Solyman; and having collected a strong force, aided by the
counsels of a number of brave and experienced officers, he advanced to Mequinez, which he reduced, after two successive pitched battles. This place was defended by one of his brothers, who, shortly after, acknowledged him as emperour, joined him, and brought over to his interests a great number of friends and partisans. He served Solyman faithfully ever after, which enabled him to withstand the united forces of his two other brothers. At length, owing to the little harmony that prevailed in the armies of his competitors, he effected his purpose. Taking advantage of their increasing animosity, he advanced towards Morocco, fighting and conquering the whole way. He entered the capital in triumph, after a general and decisive battle; and he was again proclaimed emperour.
“The gardens of the seraglio are beautifully laid out by Europeans, and contain several elegant pavilions and summer houses, where the ladies take tea and recreate themselves; baths, fountains, and solitary retreats for those inclined to meditation; in short, nothing is wanting to render this a complete, terrestrial paradise, but liberty, the deprivation of which must embitter every enjoyment.
“Muley Solyman, the present emperour, is about thirty-eight years of age, in height about six feet two inches, of a tolerably fair complexion, with remarkably fine teeth, large dark eyes, aquiline nose, and black beard; the tout ensemble of his countenance noble and majestick. He governs Barbary with discretion and moderation. In the distribution of justice, or in rewarding his subjects, he is just and impartial; in his private conduct no less pious and exemplary, than, in his publick capacity, firm and resolute, prompt and courageous.”
We cannot follow Dr. B. into the recesses, porticos, or squares of the seraglio. We must even relinquish his account of the hunted lion, and the ravages committed by that formidable animal. If the doctor was convinced that the Moors, by a manner of preparation, “ desirive charcoal of the bangful effects usually eacherienced jrom it in England,” was not his remissness blamable, in neglecting to obtain information on that subject, considering the number of artisans which are obliged, by the nature of their business, to be perpetually involved in the fumes of this noxious