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they have to liberty ; but, what degree of it they are capable of enjoying, without accomplishing their own destruction. In some countries this is very small, and in none can it be very great, because the depravity of human nature will not permit it. Compact is repugnant to the very nature of government; whose essence is compulsion, and which originates always from necessity, and never from choice or compact; and it is the most egregious absurdity, to reason from the supposed rights of mankind in an imaginary state of nature, a state the most unnatural, because in such a state they never did or can subsist, or were ever designed. The natural state of man is by no means a state of solitude and independence, but of society and subordination; all the effects of human art are parts of his nature, because the power of producing them is bestowed upon him by the author of it. It is as natural for men to build cities, as for birds to build nests; and to live under some kind of government, as for bees and ants; without which he can no more subsist than those social and industrious insects ; nor has he either more right or power than they, to refuse his submission. But if every man was possessed of this natural independence, and had a right to surrender it on a bargain, he must have an equal right to retain it; then he has a right to chuse, whether he will purchase protection at the price of freedom, or whether he prefers liberty and plunder to safety and constraint: a large majority of mankind, who have neither property nor principles, would undoubtedly make choice of the latter, and all these might rob, and murder, and commit all manner of crimes with impunity ; for, if this their claim to natural independence is well founded, they could not be justly amenable to any tribunal upon earth, and thus the world would soon become a scene of universal rapine and bloodshed. This shews into what absurdities we run, whenever we reason from speculative principles, without attending to practicability and experience: for the real truth is no more than this, every man, by the constitution of human nature, comes into the world under such a degree of authority and restraint, as is necessary for the preservation and happiness of his species and himself; this is no more left to his choice, than whether he will come into the world or not; and this obligation he carries about with him, so long as he continues in it. Hence he is bound to submit to the laws and constitution of every country in which he resides, and is justly punishable for disobedience to them. To ask a man whether he chuses to be subject to any law or government, is to ask him, whether he chuses to be a man, or a wild beast, and wishes to be treated accordingly. So far are men from being possessed of this natural independence, on which so many systems of anarchy have been erected, that submission to authority is essential to humanity, and a principal condition on which it is bestowed : man is evidently made for society, and society cannot subsist without government, and therefore government is as much a part of human nature, as a hand, a heart, or a head; all these are frequently applied to the worst of purposes, and so is government; but it would be ridiculous from thence to argue, that we should live longer and happier without them. The Supreme Governor of the world has not determined who shall be his vicegerents,
nor what forms of government shall be adopted; but he has unalterably decreed, that there shall be some; and therefore, though no particular governors can lay claim to a divine right of ruling, yet government itself is of divine institution, as much as eating, and for the same reason, because we cannot subsist without it.”
This lively little work was written at the advanced age of seventy-eight. It met with considerable attention on its appearance, and a few answers were excited by the paradoxical nature of some of its opinions. Since which time, we believe this specimen of pure and animated English has been classed with the ephemeral publications which die with the sensation they produce.
Art. VII.-Gondibert, an Heroick Poem. Written by Sir Wil
liam Davenant, 12mo. London, 1651, pp. 243.
It is not our intention in this place to give any biographical account of the eventful life of Sir William Davenant. Our sole design is to consider the heroic fragment on which his fame as a poet chiefly depends. The two first books of it were ushered into the world by a long preface, developing the plan of the poem, which the author addressed to Mr. Hobbes; and by the answer of that philosopher, together with commendatory verses by Waller and Cowley. Its appearance excited the raillery of the wits of the day, who attacked the author in a pamphlet of satirical verses, to which he replied with equal wit and some temper.* Davenant's rejection of all supernatural machinery has given rise to a great deal of discussion and inconsistent criticism. His audacity in choosing to think for himself, and write an epic poem on a principle contrary to the ancient and approved receipt for its construction, has been treated as a high crime against the laws of Parnassus, and himself deemed worthy of banishment from its domains. It is not our wish to revive this controversy, more especially after the ample though tardy justice which has been rendered to Davenant on this subject, by an elegant critict of the present day. His scheme of construct
* Mr. D’Israeli differs from all preceding critics, and considers this second publication a continuation of the satirical attack of the * Club of Wits,' the irony deriving additional bitterness from being concealed under the disguise of a pretended defence.- Quarrels of Authors, v. 2, p. 231.
+ Miscellanies in Prose, by John Aikin, M.D. and Letitia Barbauld. ing it on the exact model of a drama, the five books being parallel to the five acts, and the cantos to the scenes, was more plausible in theory, than feasible in execution. To think of making a poem, which is in its nature essentially narrative, bear any strict resemblance to a drama, which is the converse, was a vain attempt. And the author's hope, that he had not only observed the symmetry of the drama as a whole, but exactly followed all the shadowings, happy strokes, secret graces, and even the drapery which constitute the second beauty of those compositions, may be pronounced to have been entirely fallacious. Gondibert is framed on a rigid principle, and executed in a chaste and severe style. It is in fact too didactic, and is written with such curious and elaborate study, as not only incumbers, but in some degree hides, the progress of the story. There is a want of earnestness and vital heat about it, of
“The flash and outbreak of a fiery mind.” To compensate for this, however, there is a chivalrous spirit and grandeur in the sentiments-a deep perception of the noble and majestic qualities of human nature, and a reach of philosophical thought which is truly admirable. It might indeed, with almost as much propriety, be termed a philosophical as an epic poem.—The diction displays an extraordinary power of compressed and vigorous expression, but it is rather the result of rude strength shaping his language to his ideas by the force of will, than that comprehensive command over it which enables a writer to express his thoughts with facility and grace.-Although it possesses power, it wants flexibility,-arising probably from his extreme labour and scrupulousness to convey his sentiments with the utmost possible force and brevity; the consequence is, that he is sometimes affected and not unfrequently obscure. This defect is increased by the elegiac stanza which Davenant has selected; a choice which, notwithstanding a great master of versification has professedly followed it, we do not think judicious, nor our author's reasons for it sufficient. But on such a subject, Davenant has a right to be heard in his own words.
“I believed, it would be more pleasant to the reader, in a work of length, to give this respite or pause between every stanza (having endeavour'd that each should contain a period) than to run him out of breath with continu'd couplets. Nor doth alternate rhyme, by any lowliness of cadence, make the sound less heroick, but rather adapt it to a plain and stately composing of musick; and the brevity of the stanza renders it less subtile to the composer, and more easie to the singer; which in stilo recitativo, when the story is long, is chiefly requisite. And this was indeed (if I shall not betray vanity in my con
VOL. II, PART II.
fession) the reason that prevaild most towards my choice of this stanza, and my division of the main work into cantos, every canto including a sufficient accomplishment of some worthy design or action; for I had so much heat (which you, sir, may call pride, since pride may be allow'd in Pegasus, if it be a praise to other horses) as to presume they might, like the works of Homer ere they were joyn’d together, and made a volume by the Athenian king, be sung at village-feasts; though not to monarchs after victory, nor to armies before battel. For so, as an inspiration of glory into the one, and of valour into the other, did Homer's spirit, long after his bodie's rest, wander in musick about Greece."
Davenant, having nearly completed a third book during his imprisonment at Cowes Castle, in the Isle of Wight, desisted from his design, thinking it “ high time to strike sail and cast anchor, (though he had run but half his course) when at the helm he was threatened with death, who, though he can visit us but once, seems troublesome, and even in the innocent may beget such a gravity as diverts the music of verse.” The hope of fame, which he had fondly cherished, was not likely to be much encouraged by the reception of his two first books; and from his postscript, which is written in a beautiful strain, he appears to have grown less sanguine, although not altogether out of heart.
“ If thou art a malicious reader, thou wilt remember, my preface boldly confessed, that a main motive to this undertaking, was a desire of fame; and thou mayst likewise say, I may very possibly not live to enjoy it. Truly I have some years ago consider'd, that fame, like time, onely gets a reverence by long running; and that, like a river, 'tis narrowest where 'tis bred, and broadest afar off; but this concludes it not unprofitable; for he, whose writings divert men from indiscretion and vice, becomes famous, as he is an example to others' endeavours : and exemplary writers are wiser than to depend on the gratuities of this world; since the kind looks and praises of the present age, for reclaiming a few, are not mentionable with those solid rewards in heaven, for a long and continual conversion of posteritie.
“ If thou (reader) art one of those, who has been warm'd with poetick fire, I reverence thee as my judge, and whilst others tax me with vanitie, as if the preface argued my good opinion of the work, I appeal to thy conscience, whether it be more than such a necessarie assurance, as thou hast made to thyself in like undertakings ?"
His ardour however was damped, and he never more resumed his task “to build the lofty rhyme.” This being but the fragment of a story, it will be sufficient to give the reader a brief abstract of the main plot, so far as it is developed.
In the reign of Aribert, King of Lombardy, Prince Oswald and Duke Gondibert were the most renowned for all
knightly and warlike accomplishments. Oswald, who was of a rash and impetuous courage, was openly a pretender to the hand of Rhodalind, the only daughter of Aribert, and heiress to the crown. The king, however, had in his own mind destined her for the better tempered and less ambitious valour of Gondiberta choice in which the lady Rhodalind fully concurred. It happened that
“ In a fair forrest, near Verona's plain,
Fresh, as if Nature's youth chose there a shade,
Loyal and young, a solemn hunting made.”
The Duke, on his return from the chase, is surprised by an ambush, laid by the jealous Oswald. A parley succeeds, and it is finally arranged that the quarrel shall be decided by the two leaders, and three of their chief captains on each side. The combat accordingly takes place.-Oswald and two of his friends are slain, and a third wounded and disarmed. Oswald's men are so enraged at this unexpected defeat, that they immediately prepare for a general attack upon Gondibert.-An engagement ensues, and the Duke, although himself severely wounded, is again victorious. After the battle, Gondibert retires to the house of Astragon, a famous philosopher and physician, where he is scarcely recovered from his wounds before he receives others of a more gentle kind from the eyes of Birtha, the daughter of Astragon, by whose permission he becomes her professed, but secret lover.-While the friends of Oswald are forming schemes of revenge for their recent defeat, a messenger arrives from Aribert to signify his intention of honoring Gondibert with the hand of Rhodalind, and he and his daughter follow shortly afterwards. The Duke is obliged to accompany them back to court, and leave that behind which is far more precious than a crown or Rhodalind.-On parting from Birtha, he gives her an emerald ring which had been for ages the token of his ancestors to their betrothed brides ; and which by its change of colour would indicate any change in his affection.—The arrival of some of the party at the capital concludes this singular and original fragment.
The poem opens with a description of the several persons and characters of the chief actors in this heroic drama, some of which appear to us to be more elaborate than happy. There is a want of that facile and felicitous sketchiness which at once stamps on the mind an express and definite image of form and quality, and by which characters are impressed on the memory with as much accuracy and distinctness as the portraits of our ancestors which repose on the wainscots of our halls or galleries. Sir William Davenant's characters are rather an assem