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Their judgment mends the plan their fancy draws,
they feel gratitude for benefits (1.34); they desire to avenge wrongs, which they effect either by force or cunning (1.35); they are linked to each other by their common feelings, and participate in sorrow and in joy (l, 36,37). If then all the human species agree in so many moral particulars, whence arises the diversity of national characters ? This question the Poet puts at l. 38, and dilates upon to 1.64. Why, says he, have some nations shewn a propensity to commerce and industry; others to war and rapine; others to ease and pleasure ? (l.42 to 46.) Why have the Northern people overspread, in all ages, and prevailed over the Southern ?
Has Scythia breath'd, &c. 1. 47.] The most celebrated of the early irruptions of the Scythians into the neighbouring countries is that under the conduct of Madyes, about the year of the creation 3350, when they broke into Asia, during the reign of Cyaxares, king of the Medes, and conqueror of the Assyrians, plundered it at discretion, and kept possession of it during twenty-eight years. Many successive incursions, attended with every kind of desolation, are enumerated by historians; particularly those, in A. D. 252, during the reign of Gallus and Volusianus, and in 261, under that of Gallienus. Under the Greek emperors also, to mention only the years 1053 and 1191, it appears that the Scythians still continued their accustomed ravages. In later times, the like spirit of sudden and destructive invasion has constantly prevailed; and these same Scythians, under their modern name of Tartars, have, at different periods, overrun Asia, and even some parts of Europe : it is sufficient, on this point, to recal to the reader's memory the names of GingisChan, Octai, and Tamerlane.
The blue-eyed myriads, &c. 1, 51.] The different nations of Germans, who inhabited or bordered on this coast, have been always distinguished by their various emigrations in search of a better soil and climate, and of a more commodious settlement. The reader will readily recollect the expedition of the Teutones, who joined the Cimbri, when they invaded the Roman territories to the united amount, it is said, of 300,000 fighting men; the many inroads of the Germans into Gaul, under the conduct of Ariovistus; and the numerous irruptions into the Roman empire, of the Suevi, the Goths, the Vandals, and lastly of the Lombards; most of which nations came originally from the coasts here mentioned. The epithet, “blueeyed,” exhibits a distinguishing feature of the ancient Germans; and is particularly remarked by Tacitus and Juvenal. “Truces et carulei oculi,” observes the former, “de Popul. German, cap. 4.” and the latter, “Caerula quis stupuit Ger
ani lumina?”“Sat. 13. ver, 164.”
The prostrate South to the destroyer yields
(1.46 to 58.) Why has Asia been time out of mind, the seat of despotism, and Europe that of freedom 2 (1.59 to 64.) Are we from these instances to imagine men. necessarily enslaved to the inconveniences of the climate where they were born ? (1.64 to 72.) Or are we not rather to suppose there is a natural strength in the human mind, that is able to vanquish and break through them 2 (1.72 to 84.) It is confessed, however, that men receive an early tincture from the situation they are placed in, and the climate which produces them (1.84 to 88). Thus the inha
With grim delight, &c. l. 54.] It may not be improper here, after admiring the noble vein of poetical expression and imagery which adorns this description, to relate an incident in itself curious, which shews the propriety of it. The Normans, who came originally from Norway and Scandinavia, having, after a century of ravages, settled themselves in Neustria (since called Normandy) in 912, were invited into the southern parts of Italy, in the year 1018, by Gaimar, prince of Salerno, The ambassadors, by his particular direction, carried with them a quantity of citrons, and of other rare fruits, as the most alluring proof of the mildness of the climate. He thought (and the event shewed he was right in thinking so) that this “brood of winter,” delighted with the taste and fragrance of these delicacies, would the more readily consent to his proposal. [See Leo Ostiensis in his “Chron. Cassin.” and Petavius,” Rationarium Temp. pars prim. lib. viii.”] Mr. Gray's judgment, in what remains to us of this essay, is very remarkable. He borrows from poetry his imagery, his similes, and his expressions; but his thoughts are taken, as the nature of the Poem requires, from history and observation.
Their little wants, their low desires, refine,
They guard with spirit, what by strength they gain'd? 95
(As lawless force from confidence will grow)
bitants of the mountains, inured to labour and patience, are naturally trained to war (1.88 to 96); while those of the plain are more open to any attack, and softened by ease and plenty (1.96 to 99. Again, the Egyptians, from the nature of their situation, might be the inventors of home-navigation, from a necessity of keeping up an intercourse between their towns during the inundation of the Nile (1.99 to * * * *). Those persons would naturally have the first turn to commerce, who inhabited a barren coast like the Tyrians, and were persecuted by some neighbouring tyrant; or were drove to take refuge on some shoals, like the Venetian and Hollander; their discovery of some rich island, in the infancy of the world, described. The Tartar, hardened to war by his rigorous climate and pasNOTES.
And broods o'er Egypt, &c. l. 103.] The image seems to be taken from the figure of Jupiter Pluvius, as represented on the Antonine Pillar: but the whole passage rises to a height beyond the powers either of sculpture or painting to ascend. The critic would, with difficulty, find any description in antiquity, which exceeds this in point of true sublimity.
That rise and glitter o'er the ambient tide, 1. 107.] The foregoing account of the river Nile, while it is embellished with all the graces of description, is given at the same time in exact conformity to truth and reality; as the reader will observe from the following citation.—“Le Nil portoit par tout la fécondité avec ses eaux salutaires, unissoit lesvilles entre elles, et la grande mer avec lamer rouge, entretenoit le commerce au dedans et au dehors du royaume, et le fortifioit contre l'ennemi: de sorte qu'il étoit tout ensemble et le nourricier, et le defenseur de l'Egypte. On lui abandonnoit la campagne: mais les villes, rehaussées avec des travaux immenses, et s'élevant comme des iles au milieu des eaux, regardoient avec joye de cette hauteur toute la plaine inondée et tout ensemble fertilisée par le Nil.” Bossuet, Disc. sur l’Hist, trois, part.
toral life, and by his disputes for water and herbage in a country without landmarks, as also by skirmishes between his rival clans, was consequently fitted to conquer his rich Southern neighbours, whom ease and luxury had enervated: yet this is no proof that liberty and valour may not exist in Southern climes, since the Syrians and Carthaginians gave noble instances of both ; and the Arabians carried their conquests as far as the Tartars. Rome also (for many centuries) repulsed those very nations, which, when she grew weak, at length demolished; her extensive empire. * * * *
f The reader will perceive that the commentary goes further than the text. The reason for which is, that the Editor found it so on the paper from which he formed that comment: and as the thoughts seemed to be those which Mr. Gray would next have graced with the harmony of his numbers, he held it best to give them in continuation. There are other maxims on different papers, all apparently relating to the same subject, which are too excellent to be lost; these therefore (as the place in which he meant to employ them, cannot be ascertained) I shall subjoin to this note, under the title of detached sentiments. “Man is a creature not capable of cultivating his mind but in society, and in that only where he is not a slave to the necessities of life. “Want is the mother of the inferior arts, but ease that of the finer; as eloquence, policy, morality, poetry, sculpture, painting, architecture, which are the improvements of the former. w “The climate inclines some nations to contemplation and pleasure; others to hardship, action, and war; but not so as to incapacitate the former for courage and discipline, or the latter for civility, politeness, and works of genius. “It is the proper work of education and government, united, to redress the faults that arise from the soil and air. “The principal drift of education should be to make men think in the Northern climates, and act in the Southern. “The different steps and degrees of education may be compared to the artificer's operations upon marble; it is one thing to dig it out of the quarry, and another to square it; to give it gloss and lustre, call forth every beautiful spot and vein, shape it into a column, or animate it into a statue. “To a native of free and happy governments his country is always dear:
• He loves his old hereditary trees.” cowley.
While the subject of a tyrant has no country; he is therefore selfish and baseminded; he has no family, no posterity, no desire of fame; or, if he has, of one that turns not on its proper object. “Any nation that wants public spirit, neglects education, ridicules the desire of fame, and even of virtue and reason, must be ill governed. “Commerce changes entirely the fate and genius of nations, by communicating arts and opinions, circulating money, and introducing the materials of luxury; she first opens and polishes the mind, then corrupts and enervates both that and the body. *hose invasions of effeminate Southern nations by the warlike Northern people, seem (in spite of all the terror, mischief, and ignorance which they brought with them) to be necessary evils; in order to revive the spirit of mankind, softened and broken by the arts of commerce, to restore them to their native liberty and equality, and to give them again the power of supporting danger and hardship; so a comet, with all the horrors that attend it as it passes through our system, brings a supply of warmth and light to the sun, and of moisture to the air. “The doctrine of Epicurus is ever ruinous to society: it had its rise when Greece was declining, and perhaps hastened its dissolution, as also that of Rome; it is now propagated in France and in England, and seems likely to produce the same effect in both. “One principal characteristic of vice in the present age is the contempt of fame. “Many are the uses of good fame to a generous mind: its extends our existence and example into future ages; continues and propagates virtue, which otherwise would be as short-lived as our frame; and prevents the prevalence of vice in a
IX. M.R. G. It A Y TO DR. W H ARTON.
You ask for some account of books. The principal I can tell you of is a work of the President Montesquieu, the labour of twenty years; it is called L’Esprit des Loix, two vols. 4to, printed at Geneva. He lays down the principles on which are founded the three sorts of government, Despotism, the limited Monarchy, and the Republican; and shews how from these are deduced the laws and customs by which they are guided and maintained ; the education proper to each form; the influence of climate, situation, religion, &c. on the minds of particular nations and on their policy. The subject, you see, is as extensive as mankind; the thoughts perfectly new, generally admirable as they are just, sometimes a little too refined. In short, there are faults, but such as an ordinary man could never have committed. The style very lively and concise (consequently sometimes obscure); it is the gravity of Tacitus, whom he admires, tempered with the gaiety and fire of a Frenchman. The time of night will not suffer me to go on; but I will write again in a week.
generation more corrupt even than our own. It is impossible to conquer that natural desire we have of being remembered; even criminal ambition and avarice, the most selfish of all passions, would wish to leave a name behind them.”
I find also among these papers a single couplet much too beautiful to be lost; though the place where he meant to introduce it cannot be ascertained; it must, however, have made a part of some description of the effect which the Reformation had on our national manners:
When love could teach a monarch to be wise,
Thus, with all the attention that a connoisseur in painting employs in collecting every slight outline as well as finished drawing which led to the completion of some capital picture, I have endeavoured to preserve every fragment of this great poetical design. It surely deserved this care, as it was one of the noblest which Mr. Gray ever attempted; and also, as far as he carried it into execution, the most exquisitely finished. That he carried it no further is, and must ever be, a most sensible loss to the republic of letters.