Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

any feeling of religious awe, or to regard it in any other light than, at the most, a national spectacle. Of the national character of the Portuguese in general, I can say very little, as my personal intercourse with them was extremely limited. Were I to believe all that some English residents in Lisbon have told me, I should draw a gloomy picture of human degradation, unrelieved by a single redeeming grace. I should say that the common people are not only ignorant and filthy, but universally dishonest; that they blend the vices of savage and social life, and are ready to become either pilferers or assassins; that they are cruel to their children, lax in friendship, and implacable in revenge; that the higher orders are at once the dupes and tyrants of their servants, familiar with them one moment, and brutally despotic the next; that they are in constant jealousy of their wives, and not without reason; and that even their vices are without dignity or decorum. All this can never be true, or Lisbon would not be subsisting in order and peace. To me, the inhabitants appear in a more amiable light. Filthy and ignorant the common people doubtless are; but they are sober; and those dreadful excesses and sorrows which arise from the use, in England, of ardent spirits, are consequently unknown. They are idle; but the warmth of the climate may, in some degree, excuse them. No rank is destitute of some appearance of native courteousness. The rich are not, indeed, Howards or Clarksons; they have no idea of exerting themselves to any great degree, to draw down blessings on the heads of others or their own; they do not go in search of wretchedness in order to remove it; but when misery is brought before them, as it is constantly here in a thousand ghastly forms, they are far from withholding such aid as money can render. The gardens of their country villas, which are exceedingly elegant, are always open in the evenings to any of the populace who choose to walk there, so that the citizen, on the numerous holidays, which the Romish church affords, is not compelled to inhale the dust in some wretched tea-garden, which is a libel at once on nature and art, but may rove with his children through groves of orange and thickets of roses. When the company thus indulged meet any of the family which reside in the mansion, they acknowledge the favour which they are enjoying by obeisances not ungracefully made, which are always returned with equal courtesy. I am assured that this privilege is never abused; even the children walk amidst the flowers and the fruits, without the slightest idea of touching them. This circumstance alone would induce me to doubt the justice with which some have attempted to fix the brand of dishonesty on the inferior classes of Portugal. The people want not the natural tendernesses and gentle movements of the heart; all their deficiencies arise from the absence of high principle, the languishing of intellect, and the decay of the loftier powers and energies which dignify man. They have no enthusiasm, no devoted admiration, or love, for objects unconnected with the necessities of their mortal being, or the low gratifications of sense. They have few mighty names to lend them an inspiration, which might supply the place of contemporary genius; and with those, of which they ought to be fond in proportion to their rarity, they appear scarcely acquainted. Of the rich stores of poetry and romance, which they might enjoy from the neighbouring country and almost similar language of Spain, they are, for the most part, unconscious. Not only has the spirit of chivalry departed from these mountains, where it once was glowing; but its marvellous and golden tales are neglected or forgotten. The degradation of the public mind in Lisbon is increased by the notorious venality of the ministers of justice. There is no crime for which indemnity may not be purchased by a bribe. Even offences against the government of the king may be winked at, if the culprit is able to make an ample pecuniary sacrifice. It is a well known fact that some of the chief conspirators in the plot to assassinate Marshal Beresford, and change the whole order of things in Portugal, were able to make their peace with the judges, and, on the ground of some technical informality, were dismissed without trial. When any one is accused of an offence, he is generally sent at Once to prison, where he remains until he can purchase his freedom. There does not seem, however, any disposition to persecution for opinions, or to exercise wanton cruelty. The Inquisition is no longer an engine in the hands of the priests, but is merely a tribunal for the examination and the punishment of political offences. Death is rarely in

flicted; for it brings no gain to the magistrate. Criminals guilty of the highest offences are kept in prison until they are forgotten, without any one knowing or caring about their fate. In the absence of the sovereign almost all the civil authorities have become totally corrupted, for there is no patriot to watch, and no public voice to awe them. The people appear sunk in apathy to all excepting gain; and the greater number of them crawl on with little hope, except to supply the cravings of hunger. The city, notwithstanding its populousness, exhibits all the marks of decay-buildings in ruins amidst its stateliest streets, and houses begun on a magnificent scale, and left unfinished for years. The foreign merchants, especially the British, who use it as a central port, give it an artificial life, without which its condition would be most wretched. In bidding farewell to this bright abode of degraded humanity, I felt it impossible to believe that it was destined gradually to become desolate and voiceless. Glorious indeed would be the change, if knowledge should expand the souls now so low and contracted, into a sympathy with the natural wonders around them—if the arts should once more adorn the romantic city-and the orange groves and lovely spots among the delicate cork trees should be vocal with the innocent gaiety of happy peasants, or shed their influences on the hearts of youthful bards. If, indeed, the people were awakened into energy, and their spirit was regulated by wise and beneficent governors, the capital of Portugal would assuredly become the fairest of cities.

the vigorous and restless activity of his intellect might be discerned, curiously inquiring for the secret springs of its own distress, and regarding its sorrows as high problems worthy of the most painful scrutiny. While he exhibited to us the full and pensive stream of emotion, with all the images of soft clouds and delicate foliage reflected on its bosom, he failed not to conduct us to its deep-seated fountains, or to lay open to our view the jagged caverns within its banks. Yet here the vast intellectual power was less conspicuous than in his last poems, because the personal emotion was more intense, single, and pervading. He is now, we rejoice to observe, more “i' the sun,” and consequently, the nice workings of his reason are set more distinctly before us. The “Desultory Thoughts in London” embrace a great variety of topics, associated in the mind of the author with the metropolis, but many of them belonging to those classes of abstraction which might as fitly be contemplated in a desert. Among these are “Fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute,” —the theories of manners and morals—the doctrines of expediency and self-interest—with many speculations relating to the imaginative parts of literature, and the influences of religion upon them—all of which are grasped by the hand of a master. The whole range of controversial writing scarcely affords an example of propositions stated so lucidly, qualified so craftily, and urged with such exemplary fairness and candour, as in this work. It must, indeed, be admitted, that the admirable qualities of the argument render it somewhat unfit for marriage “with immortal verse.” Philosophical poetry, when most attractive, seizes on some grand elemental truths, which it links to the noblest material images, and seeks rather to send one vast sentiment to the heart through the medium of the imagination, than to lead the mind

by a regular process of logic, to the result which it contem

plates. Mere didactic poetry, as Pope's Essay on Man, suc

ceeds not by the nice balance of reasons, but by decking out

some obvious common place in a gorgeous rhetoric, or by expressing a familiar sentiment in such forcible language as

will give it a singular charm to all who have felt its justice

in a plainer garb. In general, the poet, no less than the wo—

man, who deliberates, is lost. But Mr. Lloyd's effusions are

in a great measure exceptions to this rule;—for though they

nious as his own perceptions. Coleridge throws himself into all the various objects which he contemplates, and attracts to his own imagery their colours and forms. The first, seizes only the mighty and the true with a giant grasp;—the last has a passionate and almost effeminate love of beauty and tenderness which he never loses. One looks only on the affections in their inmost home, while the other perceives them in the lightest and remotest tints, which they cast on objects the strangest and most barbarous. All the distinction, in short, between the intense and the expansive-the severe and the lovely—the philosophic and the magicalreally separates these great poets, whom it has been the fashion to censure as united in one heresy. If we cast the slightest glance at Southey's productions, we shall find him unlike either of these, his associates-offering a child-like feebleness in contrast to Wordsworth's nerve-and ranging through mythologies and strange fantasies, not only with less dominion than Coleridge, but merely portraying the shapes to which they gave existence, instead of discovering the spirit of truth and beauty within them. Nor does the author before us, often combine with these by the ignorance or the artifice of criticism, differ less widely from them.Without Wordsworth's intuitive perception of the prosoundest truth's, or Coleridge's feeling of beauty, he has a subtle activity of mind which supplies the place of the first, and a wonderful power of minute observation, which, when di. rected to lovely objects, in a great degree produces the effect of the latter. All these three rise on some occasions to the highest heaven of thought and feeling, though by various processes—Wordsworth reaching it at once by the divine wingedness of his genius-Coleridge ascending to it by a spiral tract of glory winding on through many a circuit of celestial light-and Lloyd stepping thither by a firm ladder, like that of Jacob, by even steps, which the feet of angels have trodden!

The peculiar qualities of Mr. Lloyd's genius have never been so clearly developed as in the chief poem of the work before us. In his “Nugæ Canoræ,” all his thoughts and feelings were overcast by a gentle melancholy, which rendered their prominences less distinct, as it shed over them one sad and sober hue. Even, however, in his most pensive moods,

« ПредишнаНапред »