ページの画像
PDF
ePub

un

has a long misrule deteriorated the national intellect; substituting the conventional for the true, and rendering moral dignity and honesty of conduct almost physically impossible. Aristides himself, to say nothing of St. Anthony, could scarcely resist the temptations to corruption which arise from a divided population, and which are known in the worst governments of the continent. The protestant ascendancy, from the peer to the coal porter, form the true aristocracy of the land, and all else are serfs. The protestants are in Ireland, what the Normans were in England; only they have not seen the policy of a social fusion, which the more genial temperament of the French conquerors submitted to, in their intercourse with the Saxons. Oh! with how many warm Irish hearts and ardent Irish spirits I began life, who have since yielded to the baneful influence of this state of things, and cooled down to a more prudent consideration of their country's wrongs, in relation to their own private interests. Yielding to a paltry and ephemeral ambition, they have looked down from the height of their official dignities upon the romance of patriotism, and condemned the expression of feelings, which it was once their pride to avow. How many who once shared such illusions, have afterwards shunned my sight, lest they should involve their interests in the proscription of one who loved their country, “not wisely but too well.” This is one of the severest penalties of life: death itself inflicts none so bitter. The penalties of nature bring their solace in their necessity: but what consoles for the terrible conviction of the frailty, and falling off from principle, of genius and sensibility ; for perceiving, ere half our course is run, or, while

are maintaining ourselves a direct course, steering right onward,"

we

“ Each wave that we danced on at morning, glide from us, And leave us at eve on the bleak shore alone."

[blocks in formation]

RIDICULE.

Yes, I am proud I must be proud to see
Men, not afraid of God, afraid of me."

I ENVY Pope the burst of honest triumph that produced these lines !

How long was he lashed, tortured, reviled, calumniated, and misrepresented in character, feeling, religion, person, and in all his ties and all his affections, before the author of Windsor Forest and the Universal Prayer produced his Satires and his Dunciad! Ridicule is an arm furnished by nature to wit, to defend it against the envy, hatred, and malice of vain, pretending, mediocrity; and the severity of its blows, has no doubt mainly contributed to the outcry against its legitimacy in the warfare of opinion. Dulness commenced its denunciation, and self-interest set the seal of reprobation upon it, by rendering it penal.

The validity of the legal objection against ridicule, seems to me wholly untenable; being founded on one of those “subterfuges,” in which Lord Kames tells us, that “lawyers delight.” The assumption that ridicule is no test of truth, has been received without examination, principally on account of its application to the detection of political and religious error. Notwithstanding the universal dislike to be shewn up, no one has dared directly to question the morality of satire as a corrective of manners, or to object to the poet's magnificent boast of

« Safe from the bar, the pulpit, and the throne,
Yet touched and shamed by ridicule alone.”

In criticism also, ridicule is allowed, notwithstanding the supposed proximity of the sublime to the ridiculous. Even the murderous parody of “Oh! Jemmy Thomson, Jemmy Thomson, oh!" has escaped the imputation of injustice, and of leading to false conclusions, on the merit of the original. But above all, a great deal of the logic of Euclid consists in the reductio ad absurdum, which differs from the ridiculous, only because there is nothing very humorous in the disparity discoverable in a man's notions concerning angles and lines.

In strictness of speech, there is no test of truth, save the evidence of the senses; but whatever tends to bring our conceptions in comparison with realities, may be so called; and that ridicule may be so applied to this purpose is indisputable. It is indeed the especial merit of ridicule, that it addresses itself to the senses, or at least to those ideas which are the most closely connected with sensitive impressions. The ridicule of persons is purely demonstrative. It is an enumeration of accidents and qualities, more or less exaggerated for the sake of humorous effect, but, for the rest, substantially true, or believed to be so: otherwise the ridicule fails. To tax a man with absurdities of which he is not guilty, is not ridicule, but calumny. Ridicule of opinions can only consist in such a juxta-position of ideas, as makes their disparity ludicrously self-evident. That which is consistent and true, cannot be ridiculed.

Ridicule derives its efficacy from the responsive sympathies of the audience addressed. The ridicule of unknown persons excites no emotion. The

« 前へ次へ »