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Thy soul, exalted Emily,
Rose to the God from whom it came!
With these lines we wish the Poem had terminated: but Mr. Wordsworth chose to return to The White Doe, and chose to conclude his Poem with a mystical couplet, which, with such phrases as 'heavenly glory', applied to his own strains, and ' beloved of heaven, heaven's choicest care,' in reference to the ■ White Doe,' and other similar expressions, we consign to the happy unintelligibility which envelops them from common intellects. In a poem of Mr. Wordsworth's, they must have a meaning, and we would hope a good meaning: had we met with them elsewhere, we confess we should have deemed them to be significant only of absurdity.
Prefixed to the poem are some beautiful stanzas addressed to Mrs. Wordsworth, which come home to the fancy and to the heart. They afforded us, after all, more pleasure than any thing in the volume.
Art. IV. Recollections of Italy, England, and America, with Essays on Various Subjects, in Morals and Literature. By F. A. De Chateaubriand. 2 vols. 8vo. 18s. Colburn, 1814.
T^RAGMENTS from the pen of such a writer as M. Chateau-■- briand, are like the sparks that fall beneath the graver of the lapidary, when employed on the diamond ;—not a particle but has its value. Indeed, we are not sure that M. Chateaubriand does not appear to the most advantage in his detached thoughts. They exhibit his feeling, his imagination, his eloquence, all his felicitous expressions, his beauty of metaphor, his purity of thought; while they betray none of that want of depth, that defect of reasoning and of method, which render him tedious, vapid, and uninstructive, as a teacher, a philosopher, and a critic. lie resembles, in this respect, those rockets which, after ascending to a certain height, burst forth into stars of flame which seem to range themselves among the luminaries of heaven, while the more weighty part falls back useless to the earth. But, as it would shew a very bad taste to be looking for the stick, whilst others are enraptured with the brilliancy of the lights, we shall gladly proceed to admire M. Chateaubriand's beauties, rather than dwell any longer on his defects.
To describe as a poet, it is necessary to see as a painter. The following remarks from our Author's Recollections of Italy, will prove what an intimate connexion exists in the soul of M. Chateaubriand, between the sister arts:
'Nothing is so beautiful as the lines of the Roman horizon, the gentle inclination of the plains, and the soft flying contour of the terminating mountains. The valleys often assume the form of an arena, a circus, or a riding house. The hills are cut into terraces, as if the mighty hand of the Romans had moved the whole land at pleasure. A peculiar vapour is spread over distant objects, which takes off their harshness and rounds them. The shadows are never black and heavy, for there are no masses so obscure, even among throcks and foliage, but that a little light may always insinuate itself. A singular tint and most peculiar harmony, unite the earth, the sky, and the waters. All the surfaces unite at their extremities, by means of an insensible gradation of colours, and without the possibility of ascertaining the point at which one ends, or another begins. You have doubtless admired this sort of light in Claude Lorrain's landscapes. It appears ideal, and still more beautiful than nature; but it is the light of Rome.
* I did not omit to see the Villa Borghese, and to admire the sun as he cast his setting beams upon the cypresses of Mount Marius, or on the pines of Villa Pamphili. I have also directed my way up the Tiber, to enjoy the grand scene of departing day at Ponle Mole. The summits of the Sabine mountains then appear to consist of lapis lazuli and pale gold, while their base and sides are enveloped in a vapour which has a violet or purple tint. Sometimes beautiful clouds, like light chariots, borne on the winds, with inimitable grace, make you easily comprehend the appearance of the Olympian deities, under this mythologic sky. Sometimes ancient Rome seems to have stretched into the west all the purple of her Consuls and Csesars, and spread them under the last steps of the god of day. This rich decoration does not disappear so soon as in our climate. When you suppose that the tints are vanishing, they suddenly reappear at some other point of the horizon. Twilight succeeds to twilight, and the charm of closing day is prolonged. It is true that at this hour of rural repose the air no longer resounds with Bucolic song, you no longer hear the "dulcia linquimus arva," but the victims of sacred immolation are still to be seen. White bulls, and troops of half-wild horses daily descend to the banks of the Tiber, and quench their thirst with its waters. You would fancy yourself transported to the times of the ancient Sabines, or to the age of the Arcadian Evander, when the Tiber was called Albula, and JEneas navigated its unknown stream.' Vol I pp. 8—10.
M. Chateaubriand is no admirer of mountains, considered either with regard to picturesque effect, except as a back ground, or as the boasted nurses of independence and contemplation Sober truth from a mind like his,—vivid in its general conceptions, must be considered as peculiarly valuable. If he can speak without rapture of the Alps, we shall begin to suspect that the raptures of many other travellers are felt more in recollection, than in actual experience. All his remarks on this'sub-,ject, are admirable; we shall afford room for some which iuaj' serve as companions to those already quoted.
'It is with the monuments of Nature, as with those of Art. To enjoy their beauty, a person must be stationed at the true point of perspective. Without this the forms, the colouring, and the proportions, entirely disappear. In the interior of mountains, when the object itself is almost touched, and the field, in which the optics move, is quite confined, the dimensions necessarily lose their grandeur— a circumstance so true, that one is continually deceived as to the heights and distances. I appeal to travellers, whether Mont Blanc appeared to them very lofty from the valley of Chamouny. An immense lake in the Alps, has often the appearance of a small pond. You fancy a few steps will bring you to the top of an acclivity, which you are three hours in climbing. A whole day hardly suffices to effect your escape from a defile, the extremity of which you seemed at first almost to touch with your hand. This grandeur of mountains, therefore, so often dwelt upon, has no reality, except in the fatigue which it causes. As to the landscape, it is not much grander to the eye than an ordinary one.
* But the mountains, which lose their apparent grandeur when they are too nearly approached by the spectator, are, nevertheless, so gigantic, that they destroy what would otherwise constitute their ornament. Thus, by contrary laws, every thing is diminished, both as a whole and in its separate parts. If nature had made the trees a hundred times larger on the mountains than in the plains, if the rivers and cascades poured forth waters a hundred times more abundant, these grand woods and grand waters might produce most majestic'effects upon the extended face of the earth; but such is by no means the case. The frame of the picture is enlarged beyond all bounds, while the rivers, the forests, the villages, and the flocks, preserve their accustomed proportions. Hence, there is no affinity between the whole and the part, between the theatre and its decorations. The plan of the mountains being vertical, a scale is thereby supplied, with which the eye examines and compares the objects it embraces, in spite of a wish to do otherwise, and these objects one by one proclaim their own pettiness, when thus brought to the tesU For example, the loftiest pines can hardly be distinguished from the valleys, or look only like flakes of soot dashed on the spot. The tracks of pluvial waters, in these black and gloomy woods, have the appearance of yellow parallel stripes, while the largest torrents and steepest cataracts, resemble small streams, or bluish vapours.' Vol. I. pp. 65—67.
The Recollections of England are highly creditable to our national character, and the criticism on some of our most popular poets, is, in general, lively and just, excepting when Shakspeare is touched upon, and he is, to French critics, what the loadstone mountain, in the Arabian Tales, was to the vessels that were irresistibly attracted towards it with the certainty of destruction. The Recollections of America are, as may easily be imagined, of a very different cast, but equally interesting: nor must we omit here to commend the laudable simplicity with which the Author relates every thing that appertains merely to his ewn personal exertion or fatigue. He does not raise chimeras, to shew his own valour in overcoming them, though his enthusiasm and intrepidity have sometimes plunged him into situations sufficiently hazardous, to render pardonable some degree of self-complacency, in reflecting upon the promptitude and resolnti >n with which he extricated himself from them. The following extract will justify our opinion:
'As to the perils of the journey, they were undoubtedly great, and those, who make nice calculations on this subject, will probably not be disposed to travel among sivage nations People alarm themselves, however, too much in this respect. When I was exposed to any danger, in America it was always local, and caused by my own imprudence, not by the inhabitants. For instance, when I was at the cataract of Niagara, the Indian ladder being broken, which had formerly been there. I wished, in spite of my guide's representations, to descend to the bottom of the fall by means of a rock, the craggy points of which projected. It was about two hundred feet high, and I made the attempt. In spite of the roaring cataract, and the frightful abyss which gaped beneath me, my head did not swim, and I descended about forty feet; but here the rock became sm oth and vertical, nor were there any longer, either roots or fissures for my feet to rest upon. I remained hanging all my length, by my hands, not being able to rea cend nor to proceed, feeling my fingers open by degrees from the weight of my body, and considering death inevitable. There are few men who have, in the course of their lives, passed two such minutes as I experienced over the yawning horrors of Niagara. My hands at length opened, and I fell. By most extraordinary good fortune I alighted on the naked rock. It was hard enough to have dashed me in pieces, and yet I did not feel much injured. I was within half an inch of the abyss, yet had not rolled into it; but when the cold water began to penetrate to my skin, I perceived that I had not escaped so easily as I at first imagined I felt insupportable pain in my left arm; I had broken it above the elbow. My guide, who observed me from above, and to whom I made signs, ran to look for some savages, who with much trouble drew me up by birch cords, and carried me to their habitations.' Vol. I p. 194.
M. Chateaubriand has forcibly delineated the 'Eternal City,' proudly insulated in her 'inania regnaf surrounded only by the ruins of her former grandeur. He has sketched in aerial tints the ' Tirgilian district} round Vesuvius, which, as described by him, is indeed Paradise viewed from the infernal regions. And he is no less happy in exhibiting the vast mountains of America, her trackless woods and solitary vales, impenetrable glens that have never heard the sound of human voice, and fields of ice agaiust which break discoloured waves that never bore a sail. The figures which he occasionally introduces in these wild landscapes, may seem somewhat too highly coloured. We are not so enamoured of the virtues of savage life, and perhaps M. Chateaubriand himself, since the late changes in politics, may have become more reconciled to the restraints of civilized society, even though compelled to move in that most insipid of all routines, a courtier's circle. Poets, however, must have their imaginary world, and we will concede a promise to our Author, that whenever we indulge in seducing reveries upon original rights, and liberty, and equality, and unspotted innocence, and undisturbed repose, it shall be through the medium of his eloquence. M. Chateaubriand had at one time planned a journey of vast extent, in which he hoped to be supported by the French Government, having for its object the decision of the grand question, whether the South Sea (the Pacific Ocean) affords a passage into the Atlantic from the North:
• When I had made every preparation, I should have set out directly towards the West, proceeding along the lakes of Canada to the source of the Mississippi, which I should have ascertained. Then descending by the plains of the Upper Louisiana as far as the 40th degree of Northern latitude, I should have resumed my course to the West, so as to have reached the coast of the South Sea a little above the head of the gulf of California. Following the coast and keeping the sea always in sight, I should nextliiave proceeded due North, thereby turning my back on New Mexico. If no discovery had altered my line of progress, I should have pursued my way to the mouth of Cook's Inlet, and thence to the river Cuivre (Copper-mine river) in 72 degree N. lat. Finally, if I had no where found a passage, and could not double the most northern cape of America. I should have re-entered the United tates by Hudson's Bay, Labrador, and Canada. »
• Such was the immense and perilous voyage, which I proposed to undertake for the service of my country and Europe. I calculated that it would occupy (all accidents apart) five to six years. There can be no doubt of its utility 1 should have given an account of the three kingdoms of nature, of the people and their manners, f should have sketched the principal views, &c.' Vol. I. p. 192.
Every admirer of the effusions of an ardent genius acted upon by great exciting causes, must grieve over our Author's dis«ppointment As for ourselves, when we think of his preparations for the journey, his covered waggons, his oxen, his horses, Lis European servants, his attendants from the Five Nations, and himself at the head of the cavalcade, with a long beard which was to act as a flag of truce among the savage tribes, we become tinctured with his own enthusiasm, and long to join the enterprise;—a feeling, which M. Vaillant and his hotteutot tribe, though setting out in the same style of equipage, could never inspire in us, so much more valuable to man are inquiries after his fellow men, than after the subordinate links of creation.
Vol. V. N. 8. E