Imatges de pàgina

“Now having seen how the great Christian poet has lavished all the glories of his art on the attendant hosts and personal investiture of the brave opponent of Almighty Power, let us attend to the language in which he addresses his comrade in enterprise and suffering.

"Into what pit thou seest,
From what height fallen-so much the stronger proved
He with his thunder : and till then who knew
The force of those dire arms? Yet not for those,
Nor what the potent Victor in his RAGE
Can else inflict, do I repent or change,
Though changed in outward lustre, that fix'd mind,
And high disdain from sense of injured merit,
That with the Mightiest raised me to contend,
And to the fierce contention brought along
Innumerable force of spirits arm’d,
That durst dislike His reign, and, me preferring,
His utmost power with adverse power opposed
In dubious battle on the plains of Heaven,

And shook His throne ! "Such is the force of the poet's enthusiastic sympathy with the speaker, that the reader almost thinks Omnipotence doubtful; or, if that is impossible, admires the more the courage that can resist it! The chief proceeds

What though the field be lost?
All is not lost; the unconquerable will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield,
And what is else not to be overcome;
That glory never shall his wrath or might
Extort from me. To bow and sue for grace
With suppliant knee, and deify His power,
Who from the terror of this arm so late
Doubted his empire; that were low indeed,
That were an ignominy, and shame beneath

This downfall ! “This mighty representation of generous resistance, of mind superior to fortune, of resolution nobler than the conquest, concludes by proclaiming eternal war' against Him

Who now triumphs, and in the excess of joy,

Sole reigning holds the tyranny of heaven.“Surely, but for the exquisite grace of the language compared with the baldness of Shelley's, I might parallel from this speech all that the indictment charges about an Almighty Fiend,' and Tyrannous Omnipotence.' Listen again to the more composed determination and sedate self-reliance of the arch-angelic sufferer! "“ Is this the region ? this the soil, the clime ?"

Said then the lost archangel, “ this the seat

That we must change for heaven ? this mournful gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since he,
Who now is Sovran, can dispose and bid
What shall be right; farthest from him is best,
Whom reason hath equall'd, force hath made supreme
Above his equals. Farewell, happy fields,
Where joy for ever dwells ! Hail, horrors, hail !
Infernal world, and thou, profoundest hell,
Receive thy new possessor; one who brings
A mind not to be changed by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.
What matter where, if I be still the same?
And what I should be, all but less than he
Whom thunder hath made greater. Here at least
We shall be free; the Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence :
Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
To reign is worth ambition, though in hell;
Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven !".

“ I might multiply passages of the same kind; but I dare only allude to the proposition made of assaulting the throne of God 'with Tartarean sulphur and strange fire, his own invented torments; and to the address of Satan to the newly created sun, in which he actually curses the love of God. Suppose that last passage introduced into this indictment-suppose that instead of the unintelligible lines beginning • They have three words, God, Hell, and Heaven,' we had these - Be then His love accursed,' with the innuendo, · Thereby meaning the love of Almighty God,' how would you deal with the charge? How! but by looking at the object of the great poem of which those words are part; by observing how the poet, incapable of resting in a mere abstraction, had been led insensibly to clothe it from the armoury of virtue and grandeur; by showing, that although the names of the Almighty and of Satan were retained, in truth other ideas had usurped those names, as the theme itself had eluded even Milton's grasp ! I will not ask you whether you agree with me in the defence which might be made for Milton; but I will ask, Do you not feel with me that these are matters for another tribunal ? Do you not feel with me that, except that the boldness of Milton's thoughts come softened to the ears by the exquisite beauty of Milton's language, I may find parallels in the passages I have quoted from the Paradise Lost, for those selected for prosecution from Queen Mab? Do you not feel with me that, as, without a knowledge of the Paradise Lost, you could not absolve the publisher of Milton from the prosecution of some mute inglorious' Hetherington; so neither can you, dare you, convict Mr. Moxon of a libel on God and religion, in publishing the works of Shelley, without having read and studied them all? If rashly you assail the mighty masters of thought and fantasy, you will, indeed, assail them in vain, for the purpose of suppression, though not for the purpose of torture; all you can do is to make them suffer, as, being

human, they are liable to corporal suffering; but, like the wounded spirits in Milton, 'they will soon close,''confounded, though immortal !'”

So little faith have we in the enlightenment of English juries, that we make some doubt whether they would not even condemn Milton himself of blasphemy, if an opportunity were to occur. Such questions as these are wholly beyond the intellectual capacity of the gross million, who can scarcely be expected to comprehend the subtle chain which conpects together the mental experiences of a poet's progress to the perfection of wisdom and of beauty. Still less are they able to appreciate the truth, that all manly belief, if it be reasonable, must be preceded by doubt; which doubt in itself is far from being blameable, when employed in its legitimate object of promoting an investigation that cannot fail of convincing the sincere and the ingenuous. And doubt, as doubt, has no principle of life in it; it seeks restlessly to be merged in satisfaction and certainty. This struggle between the wish to believe, and the dread of believing, is often remarkably exhibited in the poems of Shelley; and lends to them much of that dreamy terror and spectral grandeur, which, at first, appals the student. Gradually, however, he grew stronger in faith; and emancipating himself from the clouds of phantasies which had before obscured the brightness of his genius, proved indeed to be one for whom admiration was too little--one for whom sympathy and love were demanded as a right. Contemplating the “chaos of contrarieties at war," of which Shelley was for so long a victim, we cannot forbear exclaiming, with Serjeant Talfourd, - “Behold! Here is a spectacle which angels may admire and weep over! Here is a poet of fancy the most ethereal — feelings the most devout-charity the most Christian-enthralled by opinions the most cold, hollow, and debasing! Here is a youth endowed with that sensibility to the beautiful and the grand which peoples his minutes with the perceptions of years—who, with a spirit of self-sacrifice which the eldest Christianity might exult in if found in one of its martyrs, is ready to lay down that intellectual being-to be lost in loss itself—if by annihilation he could multiply the enjoyments and hasten the progress of his species—and yet, with strange wilfulness, rejecting that religion in form to which in essence he is imperishably allied ! Observe these radiant fancies-pure and cold as frostworkbow would they be kindled by the warmth of Christian love! Track those thoughts that wander through eternity,' and think how they would repose in their proper home! And trace the inspired, yet erring youth, poem after poem-year after year, month after monthhow shall you see the icy fetters which encircle bis genius gradually dissolve; the wreaths of mist ascend from his path"; and the distance spread out before him peopled with human affections, and skirted by angel wings! See how this seeming atheist begins to adore--how the divine image of suffering and love presented at Calvary, never unfelt, begins to be seen-and in its contemplation the softened, not yet convinced, poet exclaims, in his Prometheus, of the followers of


• The wise, the pure, the lofty, and the just,
Whom thy slaves hate-for being like to thee!'

And thus he proceeds—with light shining more and more towards the perfect day, which he was not permitted to realize in this world. As you trace this progress, alas ! Death veils it-veils it, not stops itand this perturbed, imperfect, but glorious being is hidden from us• Till the sea shall give up its dead !' What say you now to the book which exhibits this spectacle, and stops with this catastrophe? Is it a libel on religion and God? Talk of proofs of Divine existence in the wonders of the material universe, there is nothing in anynor in all- compared to the proof which this indicted volume conveys! What can the telescope disclose of worlds and suns and systems in the heavens above us, or the microscope detect in the descending scale of various life, endowed with a speech and a language like that with which Shelley, being dead, here speaks? Not even do the most serene productions of poets, whose faculties in this world have attained comparative harmony-strongly as they plead for the immortality of the mind which produced them-afford so unanswerable a proof of a life to come, as the mighty embryo which this book exhibits ;-as the course, the frailty, the imperfection, with the dark curtain dropped on all! It is, indeed, when best surveyed, but the infancy of an eternal being; an infancy wayward but gigantic; an infancy which we shall never fully understand, till we behold its developement 'when time shall be no more'-when doubt shall be dissolved in vision— when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and when this mortal shall have put on immortality!'”

The whole history of this prosecution is worthy of serious consideration. Mr. Hetherington, who had himself been prosecuted to conviction for an alleged libel on the Old Testament, by thus, in his turn, becoming the accuser of Mr. Moxon, retaliates his sentence on a man, by whom, in the words of Serjeant Talfourd, “he was never wronged, even in thought.” If this kind of revenge is to be allowed, the boasted freedom of our literature is at an end. A censorship, at once irregular and irresponsible, will be erected; which every literary man ought to protest against, and do his utmost to destroy. The extent of oppression which it may originate is incalculable. As Serjeant Talfourd remarks, the publishers of Shakspere, Ben Jonson, Fletcher, Massinger, and Ford, together with all who have sold a Horace, or Virgil, or Lucretius, or Ovid, or Juvenal, will be placed at the mercy of any “ insect abuser of the press," who may think himself aggrieved by a law which defeats his endeavours to profit by lasciviousness. Although the classic elegance of Serjeant Talfourd's oratory has failed to protect Mr. Moxon from a conviction which will be an honour to him rather than otherwise, yet do we hope that it will have the beneficial effect of directing public attention to the defects of the law, under which he has been so unjustly made to suffer. Might not the right of setting it in action be restricted to the Attorney-General ? Such a restriction would at once preserve men like Mr. Moxon from attacks so unprovoked and so unchristian ; and place quite a sufficient check on the penny retailers of sedition and infidelity. We recommend this suggestion to the learned Serjeant, who, by his praiseworthy and strenuous exertions on the copyright question, has already been so endeared to the great body of British authors.

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We put aside for a brief period our more philosophical abstract speculations, to consider specifically the phenomena of the political world, over which a great change has lately passed. When we last looked at it, Lord Palmerston and M. Thiers were squabbling about the Eastern Question, which, nevertheless, we plainly perceived that Providence was settling in its own way; and, accordingly, as our manner is, we transcended the field of petty strife, and dared believe in a divine purpose,-beyond, above, and before it, - which would at no distant date, be feebly imaged in some compromise necessarily to be effected between the antagonist parties. One thing to us was clear and certain, that England occupied a mid point between extreme opposites, and that, whatever ministry we might serve under, the policy of this country could be none other than CONSERVATIVE.

Political events have since occurred, but we have not even noticed thera--for we knew that they were and could be only of an accidental, not an essential, character. They were but chaotic spasms during a transitional interval, of little moment in themselves, except as occupying a period, the close of which would be marked by a great alteration in the face of affairs. Corn laws and sugar duties are only the apparent, not the real questions at issue. The real question is, whether Conservatism or Revolution should command the issues of political life, and “rain down influence" on the state of society. This question has been tried by the recent elections, and the answer has been given. The spirit of the country is expressly Conservative.

But what is Conservatism? The importance of this question is erceedingly weighty. Mistakes are made on this head which fatally ver every argument on political subjects. It is generally supposed that it is some extreme opinion; none, however, but careless observers, to say nothing of shallow thinkers, can possibly be misled by this notion. Conservatism, we repeat, is not, and never was, an extreme opinion. We recollect well the word being first used in the Quarterly Review, in an article by our dear friend and helper, the laureated Southey; and from that time dated a change in the aspect and relations of political events. Toryism, no doubt, was an extreme opinion - megism, no doubt, is an extreme opinion--and the latter is still N. S.-VOL, VI.

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