« ПредишнаНапред »
mony, without the help of verse; that there could be such a thing as “ numerous prose,” without the constraints or appliances of metre. He may, personally, have made a bad use of the discovery, by misapplying or misemploying it; but let the credit of the discovery be allowed him.
This allowance is not conceded without exception, by competent scholars. Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona, and there fourished har. monious prose-writers before Balzac. So at least M. Saint-Marc Girardin, for one, maintains; and he is a good judge of such matters. “ Balzac," says he, * " has the credit of having created in France the style noble. Before Balzac, D'Urfé knew how to speak a rich and noble language ; before Balzac, he knew how to give harmony and light to his periods.” Many another critic, no doubt, could stand up for many another old author, as Balzac's precursor in the creation of périodes nombreuses. Meanwhile, de facto, if not de jure, Balzac has the prestige, and is in possession. And possession is nine points of the lawwhatever it may be of equity. Historian after historian of French literature will continue to give Balzac a chapter on the score of his esta. blished traditional right.
We must not omit Voltaire's estimate of him, for it fairly reflects the standard opinion, now as then: “At that time Balzac imparted numbers and harmony to prose. It is true that his letters were inflated harangues ; he wrote to the first Cardinal de Retz: Vous venez de prendre le sceptre des rois et la livrée des roses. He wrote from Rome to Bois-Robert, in speaking of scented water : “Je me sauve à la nage dans ma chambre, au milieu des parfums.'t With all these faults, he charmed the ear. Such is the power of eloquence over men, that Balzac in his day was admired for having found this little section of ignored and necessary art, which consists in harmonious choice of words ; and even for having often employed it out of place."
The nineteenth century has a Balzac of its own, whom it reads, or used to read, largely enough. For the very different Balzac of the seventeenth century, its appetite is far from keen: it is content to take him upon trust, or, at the most, to dip into him here and there, in the belief (and generally with the experience) that a little will go a good way. He is still served up in elegant extracts. In M. Léon Feugère's collection of “Chefs-d'oeuvre of French Eloquence,” for example, Balzac is the initial name. With him opens that " gallery of great writers," and it is but the honour due, says M. de Sacy, to the father of the beau style. This genial commentator pronounces Balzac “delicious to read by bits at a time.” Certain morceaux, detached from the context, have the effect of
* See his Essay on the Astrée of D'Urfé ("Cours de Littér. Dramatique," t. iii. p. 101.)
† Voltaire might have enlarged divertingly on Balzac's observations in and upon the Eternal City, wherein his practice was, not to inquire into the political position of the papacy, or the manners and morals of the people, but, as Philarète Chasles says, to describe, in dainty phrases, the “long siestas of Rome caressed by the soft tempest of fans;” (!) the air of his room renovated by divers perfumes; his luxurious reveries, under groves of orange-trees, " to the murmur of a dozen fountains;” above all, his delicate repasts, composed of "birds fattened on sugar.” See the Essay on some of Boileau's Victims (included in the Studies on Spain).
# Siècle de Louis XIV., ch. xxxii.
illusion : : you might almost think yourself listening to Montesquieu or Bossuet, such ingenious and subtle thoughts, or even great and strong ones, are brought out by him while bringing out the capacities of the language. “I admit that it is wearisome to read Balzac for long together. But open his works at hap-hazard, take the first of his letters that comes to hand; for some minutes you will be under a spell ; at this school you will feel your tongue growing richer, your ear becoming severer in its demands.”* Can it be Balzac ?-asks the same critic, in another place—can it be that artiste en phrases ? is it not rather the author of the Discourse on Universal History, Bossuet himself, who wrote the following lines ?-(that is to say, the original of our translation): “It is very true that there is something divine, nay, let us say there is nothing but what is divine, in the maladies by which States are troubled. These dispositions, these humours, this hot fever of rebellion, this lethargy of servitude, come from a higher source than men imagine. God is the poet, and men are only the actors. These grand pieces that are played upon earth have been composed in heaven.” And then as a fragment à la Montesquieu, the following passage on the defeat and suicide of the Emperor Otho is offered : “ The Emperor Otho was conquered because he had not the patience to conquer. He slew himself out of delicacy, and liked better to perish at once than to give himself further trouble. He was in want neither of counsel nor strength; he had the finest troops, and the most desirous of acquitting themselves well, that ever were seen ; and yet, because of one unprosperous day, he surrendered victory to an enemy in all respects his inferior, and gave up the game because he had lost at the first throw. He renounced empire, honour, and life, all from inability to support any longer the doubts and uncertainties of the future ; and the care of musing daily over his affairs appeared to him so burdensome, that, to be in some sort at leisure, he determined on betaking himself out of the world.” Pour être à loisir, in the penultimate sentence, is naturally condemned by M. de Sacy as “too pretty,” and spoiling the seriousness of the context. However, voilà bien Balzac, “ an admirable artist, who abuses his talent as sculptor and painter,”not satisfied with extorting from a pensée all that it can suggest in the way of noble or picturesque expression, some piquant turn, or some flourish of style, but refusing to abandon it, though drained of its contents, and falling into mere repetition and laboured wordiness, after thoroughly exhausting what there was in it of the natural and the new.
* De Sacy: Variétés Littéraires, t. ii. (“Prosateurs Français du second ordre.”) f Ibid. Chefs-d'oeuvre d’Eloquence Française.")
ANCIENT HUNTING IN IRELAND.
He shewed him, ere they went to soupere,
CHAUCER's Frankeleine's Tale.
HUNTING seems to have been a favourite pursuit in Ireland from before the time of the Venerable Bede's remark, that the island was famous for the chase of the stag, down to the palmy days of hunting the fox, when the merry city of Kilkenny was the Irish Melton. Having in my hot youth occasionally joined the gallant sons of the soil in this latter body-and-mind-strengthening sport, I can bear witness to their passion for the manly exercise, and will, before entering upon my present theme, put on record a little anecdote I heard whilst among them in proof of the joys of mere hare-hunting in the mountain paradises of Paddysland.
I was a hobbledehoy when I first took up my residence in the Green Isle--that land of gay Gaels and sporting Anglo-Irish—and though a Sassenach-bred Irish youth, not de pur sang (as the French say), but Anglo-Irish by the spear side, and Saxon by the spindle, I had not inherited as much love for the chase as if I could claim descent from St. Hubert, the Saxon patron of the art; and being then of a poetic, as now of a literary turn, was greenly enthusiastic enough to treat my companions over claret with choice quotations from British poets, such as the charming verses from “ L'Allegro,” where
The hounds and horn
Through the high wood echoing shrill. Some of my new friends were so pleased with these beautiful lines as to ask me if I could repeat the entire poem; but, during my attempt to comply with their wish, my short memory, and interruptions from the jolliest of the good company, caused several checks. Åt length, when I came to the apostrophe to “ The mountain nymph, sweet liberty," and then sonorously gave out,
Mirth, admit me of thy crew,
In unreproved pleasures free, an old master of hounds, one of the elderlies of the party, broke in, in a rather unsportsmanlike manner, exclaiming that these verses reminded him of a case in point, which he would beg to instance, since it practically proved the delights of hunting; and practical opinions are, said he, preferable to poetic. “I remember," quoth he, "going down to
visit a college chum of mine in the county of —” (here he named a remote shire in Munster), "whom I hadn't seen for some twenty years, for he had passed most of that time as vicar of a snug living there. On arriving, I found my old comrade grown stout, and very rosy about the gills. His sixty or so of years had left him but few white hairs on the top of his short and shapely body; but he was as jovial as any country parson has a good right to be. His vicarage house, a comfortable box, on the sunny side of the Kilmascuddery hills, is admirably situated for hare-hunting, for the mountain sides are unenclosed, and there were lots of hares. One of the first sights my host showed me was his kennel, in which he kept a small pack of beagles. You know, boys,” continued the speaker, who himself had formerly had a kennelful of fox-hounds of his own, “ I think hare-hunting child's play, yet must say I enjoyed the four or five days' pretty sport my kind friend showed me. Well, gentlemen, when Sunday came round, we duly went twice to church, and the vicar gave us a brace of excellent rural discourses. Dinner finished the day; the mutton was right good, and my host's little wife allowed us an extra bottle of port, in consideration of our blank day. Mistress · Bessy'-so the vicar called his better-half-was a feminine and duodecimo edition of himself, and, in fact, though she was not a faulty personification of matronly mirth, with whom a man might live freely in unreproved pleasures, as my young friend” (turning to the present writer) " says, and, moreover, a man might live very comfortably, for she was a capital housekeeper, she was by no means a model of a mountain nymph. The decanter being placed on the table, madam withdrew, and her rubicund and warm-hearted spouse threw himself cozily back in his arm-chair.
Dick!' says he, presently. Well, old boy!' says I. Troth,' says he, • I've been thinking,' says he—and he paused. • What is it?' I asked. It is this,' says he. • I've been thinking'-and he hesitated, but continued, turning his eyes up to the ceiling — all I said in the sermon this morning about eternity, and the happiness of the future state, is quite true. But, Dick, my boy, if—if I could sometimes see an old friend like you, and keep Bessy and the little beagles, I'd be very happy where I
We all laughed heartily at this natural expression of a sense of profound contentment. For my part, whenever it has recurred to me, I cannot but liken it to the matin chirrup of a bird; and I verily believe that if an accusing spirit ventured to fly up to have it registered, the recording angel would spurn him away.
As I have said, I used to enjoy a run now and then whilst living in the Emerald Isle, after I became habituated to the nature of the country and to the peculiar style of jumping required for its strange fences--those stiff banks of earth and stone topped with furze ; for I am free to confess that I funked at first, and particularly the first day, on finding myself mounted on a slashing mare, standing on the edge of a small cover on the top of a hill that would make a decent mountain in Leicestershire, and that, when a whipper-in shouted " They're off!” my well-trained huntress instantly followed his lead, by half-leaping, half-scrambling, like a cat, over a tall fence, the sight of which I shall never forget. Two or three in the field would not, I fancy, have been sorry to see the young Saxon sprawling; but I kept saddle, except during a brief sit upon the mare's neck. This was the first meet of the season, and what between mortal
dislike of similar jumps, and a day's hard riding, I lost nearly a stone weight. Since that time, so many years have passed over my head, and that lost weight has been so well made amends for, that antiquarian pursuits are more suitable to the reader's humble servant than the pursuit of either fox or hare. Yet my vanity is now gratified in a not very dissimilar manner, for I flatter myself that not a F.A.S. of the whole pack forming the Antiquarian Society has a keener scent for tracking an archæologic investigation through library coverts, or is faster in hunting it from folio to folio. My cor de chasse, purchased many years ago in Brittany, and such as each of our allies, the sportsmen of France, still bears in the chase, has been exchanged for a steel pen, with which let me now proceed to inscribe some notes on my proposed theme, antiquarian gossip being, indeed, my mode of giving tongue.
Solinus, who penned his quaint Polyhistor, or account of many nations, in the first century of the Christian era, describes the natives of the Green Isle as much given to idleness, games, and hunting. This latter pastime, to which primitive Paddies were so addicted, was, be it noticed, by no means idle sport, since it may be believed that pursuit of fere naturæ, or wild animals, formed almost the sole mode of supporting life at that period. In all likelihood, cows, sheep, and horses were then not only exotic in “icy lerne” (as a Roman poet styles the hyperborean isle), but almost as rare as lamas and giraffes are there now. In those early ages, “when wild in woods the naked savage ran,” the runner depended for raiment, as well as food, upon catching a beast, whose peltry he could make into a paletot.
A memoir of St. Patrick, in the Book of Armagh, mentions a certain territory in Ierne as one “where deer and swine abound.” Cambrensis declares that he never elsewhere saw such an abundance of boars and wild swine. The flesh of these animals was held in high estimation by all nations in northern latitudes, and especially by the Irish, who are stated, in the sixteenth century, to prefer it to all other. The number of leper hospitals anciently existing in the country seems to prove the general use of this food. Yet, sedulously as I have searched, I have not found any accounts of hunting the boar in hyperborean Hibernia.
It seems indubitable that the variety of the cervus species, commonly called the “great Irish deer,” or, scientifically, cervus megaceros and cervus elephas, was rendered extinct in its indigenous island by the toils and missiles of man, since remains exist showing the wound of an arrow that had pierced to the bone. The view of that relic of, perhaps, an antediluvian buck bore my ideas back upon the wings of time to that obscure period when man first trespassed into the land, when it was as fresh as from the hand of nature, and when the
Huge forests, and unharbour'd heaths,
Infamous hills, and sandy, perilous wilds of Ireland were tenanted but by mammoth deer, shaggy buffaloes, and wild swine. And, following this retrospect, I bethought me, oddly enough, of the ensuing sentence I recollect to have seen in a French grammar of geography, printed in Paris so recently as 1812: “Les forêts (d'Irlande) sont remplis de sangliers, de cerfs, et de meurtriers !" The schoolmaster was much abroad in this matter ; but his teaching shows the French traditional idea of the state of our sister kingdom.