תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

Rome-every thing is illustrated by some reference to ancient history. Cæsar and Pompey, Brutus and Cicero, Cataline, Anthony, and all the old acquaintance of our schoolboy studies, meet us in every page, till at length we turn away from them with the same weary indifference which is felt after wading through any unaccustomed quantity of the balmy tears and nectared sighs of modern amatory poetry. But it is not merely as a matter of taste that all this is objectionable. The arguments drawn from this source are generally inconclusive, and often wholly groundless. The similitude which Mr. Ames delights to trace between ancient Rome and modern France is indeed sufficiently happy, and in his hands a fruitful source of political instruction. But when he runs the parallel between the last age of the Roman republic and the present state of our own country, most assuredly the analogy becomes wild and fanciful. The patriot may indeed observe in the actual state of our society and public morals, much-very much to lament. He will see with regret the boldness with which political calumnies and falsehoods are asserted, and the willing credulity with which they are received. He will blush for the gross ignorance and incompetence of some of those whom party violence exalts to office and honour; and he will perceive with sorrow so many of the noblest minds partaking of the general contagion, poisoned and inflamed with the vulgar and ferocious spirit of po. litical intolerance. But what is there in any part of our country which can bear any comparison with the horrible excesses, the frequent tumults, the bloody proscriptions, the civil wars, and all that deep depravity which marked the last age of the Roman republic when already black with corruption, she laid gasping and strug. gling in the agonies of expiring freedom? And yet Mr. Ames gravely asserts that “all this is apparent in the United States," and that “those times were not more corrupt than our own!” Such are the wild extravagances into which genius is hurried in the heat of controversy, while resentments are fresh, and prejudices hang. ing thick around the mind.

The peculiar political doctrines supported by Mr. Ames are so intimately connected with the great questions of party difference which still agitate the nation, that to discuss their truth or error, would be but to enter into the heat of the controversy which at present exists between the party in power and the most decided and high toned of their political adversaries. He is yet too near to our own times to be in all respects fairly estimated. A great mind, like a great edifice, cannot be perfectly seen in too near a view. To take in the whole, and form a correct idea of all its proportions, we must retire to a distance. Posterity alone can do this. But yet, now that Duncan is in his grave, and many of the fleeting opinions and feelings of the day are buried with him, a generous and candid adversary may perceive in the peculiar circumstances of the times and his situation, causes sufficient to account for many of his errors of opinion, without branding his memory with the foul stigma of foreign attachment and want of national feeling. It may be conceded, too, that his view of the situation and probable destinies of his country, are tinged with too gloomy and disheartening a hue, and that his later speculations on the dangers of American liberty appear in some degree to partake of the character of the bodily disease under which he languished, sometimes flushed with feverish animation, and sometimes drooping with languid gloom. Under the influence of these morbid feelings, he is too apt to confound the national character with that of the petty leaders and fomenters of local faction, and thus to represent it in a false and distorted view. Neither does he sufficiently take into consideration many circumstances of our character and situation, which may haply prove effectual antidotes even to the more probable evils which he has foreboded. These concessions having been freely made, enough yet remains to place bis political character bigh in the list of enlightened and patriotic statesmen. Many of his political doctrines, and in particular those which inculcated the importance of permanent naval and military establishments, after subjecting him to the highest degree of odium, have now been confirmed by experience, and have become fixed in popular opinion; and of others the truth is probably less evident because they have either directly or indirectly produced their wished effect, and by causing a reaction of popular sentiment, tended to lessen the dangers which he dreaded.

Ames has been more than once styled the American Burke, and the appellation is not without propriety. In one singular circumstance the parallel is perfect. The earlier speeches and writings of both, while they manifest all the soundness and vigour of their maturest judgment, display comparatively little of the warmth and richness of imagination for which they were afterwards distinguished. As reading and observation gradually stored their minds, images which they would never have tasked their fancy to seek out, spontaneously crowded in upon them, and it was more easy to employ than to reject them.

If, however, Ames was our Burke, he was Burke limited in his range of knowledge, and pruned of much of his luxuriance of intellect and all his ingenious refinements of speculative wisdom. Much of this difference doubtless arises from education, and it is still rather in degree than in kind.

His works, with the exception of an essay upon American literature, his eulogies upon Washington and Hamilton, and two or three short essays, are entirely political, and were most of them originally printed in the Boston newspapers. They were collected and published in one large octavo volume, Boston, 1809. The engraving, from a portrait of Stuart, prefixed to that volume, is said to convey a very perfect idea of his usual aspect and expression.

The notices of his life and character affixed to that collection are written with great elegance, and in a tone of lofty and tender eulogy worthy of the man whom they celebrate. But as they breathe throughout, rather the spirit of admiring friendship than of sober biography, and as the writer of the present sketch found himself in possession of several curious facts and minuter traits of character either passed over in silence or vaguely hinted at by the eloquent eulogist, he thought that a calmer view of the life and character of Fisher Ames would not be without its interest and its use. A dispassionate estimate of his services and talents may perhaps have power to disarm some of those angry party feelings wbich are proof against all the eloquence of enthusiastic admiration. The great poet of human nature has taught us that it is in the power of the honest chronicler alone to preserve the honour of the illustrious dead from corruption, and to extort from the most prejudiced enemy the frank confession that

Whom I most hated living, thou hast made me
With thy religious truth and modesty,
Now in his ashes honour.-

V.

For the Analectic Magazine.

· The Bride of Abydos. A Turkish tale. By Lord Byron.

· It has become a generally admitted fact, that an author who has attained a high reputation, writes under very formidable disadvantages. The celebrity of his past writings, while it procures for his subsequent works a more immediate and wide circulation, and a more eager and steady attention, likewise inflames public expectation often to an unreasonable, and sometimes to an insatiable, degree. To a prudent author, therefore—for we do not entirely despair of such a thing existing—success, instead of occasioning a relaxation of diligence, will suggest the necessity of augmented care and exertion, that, if he do not arrive at the extravagant anticipations of his admirers, he may, at least, not sink below his former soarings.

Lord Byron appears, in composing the work before us, to have heen aware of the truth we advert to-for, either from an improved faculty, or from superior care, or perhaps from both, his Bride of Abydos is, in our opinion, more perfect, if not more delightful, than any of his former productions. From the first of his publications of importance, we mean “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers,” in which he at once started up a giant in satire, with all the poetic vigour, accuracy of observation, and happy vein of humour of Churchill, but with more amenity of thought and style, up to this of which we are speaking, he has been daily gaining ground on public opinion, by the novelty of his plans, the variety and affluence of his conceptions, the brilliancy of his fancy, and the sweet touches of pathos, which impart both dignity and tenderness to his compositions. It may, perhaps, be said of him, with more truth than of any of his cotemporaries, that he owes little, if any thing, to imitation—that he never dwindles into insipidity—that nothing commonplace escapes him, and that even known thoughts derive, from his manner of treating them, a cast of originality.

In the general structure of the tale on which the poem of the Bride of Abydos is founded, there is nothing strikingly new; it is indeed one of those which a reader versed in works of fancy, or story-telling lore, would be apt to imagine he had often encountered before in some shape or other. Possessing rather the simple air of a matter of fact narrative, than the complexity of a fabricated tale, and the time being laid at a very recent date, it seems more likely to be a current popular story, selected for its interesting catastrophe by his lordship when he was in Turkey, than a tale of his own invention.

Giaffir, a Turkish Pacha, having murdered his brother Abdallah, spares his infant son Selim, and rears him up as his own by a Grecian slave, confiding the secret only to his chief slave Haroun. Selim, having access to the haram, grows up in fraternal intercourse with Giatfir's daughter Zuleika, who, believing him to be her brother, loves him with the purest and most fervent affection.

The attachment of Selim is of a more ardent character, for, having been secretly informed by Haroun of his real history, he regards Zuleika with all the impassioned tenderness of a lover; while towards her father he cherishes the most fixed and deadly resentment. Giaffir, also conscious of deserving the vengeance of Selim, and full of the alarms and insecurity of a guilty mind, watches him with a jealous and uneasy eye, and marks with distrust, the air and tone of defiance which the latter daily assumes.

Such is the situation of the characters at the opening of the poem; when Giaffir seated in his divan, having heard that Zuleika had that morning been seen without the haram's walls, orders the chamber to be cleared, and Haroun, chief of the haram guard, to bring Zuleika before him; denouncing vengeance against him whose eye had beheld her unveiled. Haroun having departed, Selim boldly acknowledges himself to be the offending person, and tells Giaffir,

“*Know-for the fault, if fault there be,
Was mine—then fall thy frowns on me!
So lovelily the morning shone

That- let the old and weary sleep-
I could not; and to view alone

The fairest scenes of land and deep,

« הקודםהמשך »